The Story of Paisley
Image: Coverlet, embroidered cotton with quilting, makers unknown, early 20th century, Bangladesh. Museum no. IS.61-1981. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The Textile Research Centre (TRC) in Leiden, the Netherlands is a research centre which aims to make its extensive textiles library, and over 20,000 artefacts, accessible to all. In the face of the ongoing coronavirus crisis, and despite it having to be rearranged due to ongoing government restrictions, the museum is now preparing to open its new exhibition from 3 March: From Buteh to Paisley, The story of a Global Icon.
Image: Detail of a dress with paisley motifs that enclose an 'atomic' design. USA, 1960's (TRC 2021.0355).
As the name alludes, the exhibition is not just about the Iranian and Indian motif traditionally associated with Kashmir shawls (generally known as buteh), and reproduced in the Scottish town of Paisley from the early 19th century onwards, it's the story of something much bigger. Remarkably, the paisley motif is one of the few non-geometric design forms that can be found throughout the world — worn by men, women, children of all ages, from the cradle to the grave. Moreover, it is worn by people of many different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, as well as being one of the very few motifs that are used to decorate garments ranging from underwear (all genders), through stockings, ties and blouses, to skirts, trousers, bikinis and beach hats. It can be found on the attire worn by a Hell’s Angel biker, a Steampunk Goth, to a respectable London banker and a rural grandparent, all without any comments being made.
Image: Leiden, The Netherlands
The exhibition begins with an introduction to the history of the paisley motif, its roots in Iran, and how it was disseminated all over the world via Turkey and India. Then, through the lens of objects from the mid-19th century to the present day, the exhibition looks at how the motif has infiltrated Western clothing and textile traditions for well over 150 years. A perfect example of its global reach, the TRC just received a donation of an outfit from the Estonian island of Kihnu, which, since the late 19th century has developed a form of regional daily dress which is dominated by paisley motifs.
Keen to ensure that as many people can access the exhibition as possible, the TRC will also be publishing a digital version online, which will be released on the same day the exhibition opens.
The exhibition will run from March 3 - 28 July. To find out more, visit the Textile Research Centre website, or contact email@example.com.