Cornellians can now immerse themselves in a world of fabric and feel their way through a new exhibit called TEXTURE, hosted by the Cornell Costume and Textile Collection.
The exhibition, which opened Thursday on Level T of the Human Ecology Building, is funded in part by the Cornell Council for the Arts and comprised entirely of garments with various and unusual textures.
TEXTURE displays 22 items in cases as well as touchable pieces of textured fabric to emphasize that “texture is an element of design, which is simultaneously tactile and visual,” according to Prof. Denise Green, fiber science and apparel design, director of CCTC.
In her introductory speech, Green spoke on the deliberate vagueness of the theme of “texture.”
“Every fashion or textile item worn atop or around the body has some kind of texture, yet the open-ended and vague nature of the prompt encouraged students to find an array of interesting and unique pieces,” Green said.
Curation of the exhibit was undertaken by a variety of individuals at the CCTC and led by chief curator Amanda Denham M.A. ’17, a CCTC research assistant.
“They each selected a number of different garments, textiles and accessories from the collection and began working to develop themes for the cases,” Denham said. “By creating a series of sub-themes we were able to put items in conversation that might never have been considered before.”
However, Denham described the show as “about far more than a textured surface.”
“The initial theme brought these items together, of course, but once they were installed their proximity gave rise to much more complex questions than even I had anticipated,” she said.
One of the four sub-themes was “Crispy & Crinkly,” for which Livia Caligor ’21, a research assistant, chose a metallic paper dress.
“As a joke, [clothing manufacturer] Mars of Asheville created a paper dress that actually became a huge hit and kind of the genesis of fast fashion,” she told The Sun. “It’s really funny because it came with this tag that says to hem the dress you can just take a pair of scissors and cut it.”
Caligor also saw the paper dress — which Mars of Asheville created in the 1960s according to the Asheville Art Museum — as representative of cultural standards.
“On the tag, it says the dress is a size 10 even though it fits a small mannequin, which I think is is indicative of the change in beauty standards over time,” she said.
Allie Malakoff ’20 chose a gown that “combines a lace bodice with straw rosettes on a silk skirt” by designer Arnold Scaasi.
“These are two fabrics that probably should clash, but [Scaasi]’s such a genius that he made them work together seamlessly,” she said.
Amanda Dubin ’18, the curator of another sub-themed section — “Warm & Fuzzy” — paired winter coats together to illustrate their relevance as status symbols. A raccoon coat, popular on the college campuses of the 1920s, was placed alongside a modern Canada Goose jacket to mark the Canada Goose jacket as its “contemporary iteration.”
Exhibition attendee Ru Feng ’22 found a faux fur bikini, or “furkini,” this section’s most eye-catching piece, describing it “beautiful.”
The other two texture themes were “Slinky & Scaly” and “Soft & Squishy.” The latter presented The China Poblana, a garment that the program explains was inspired by an enslaved woman “Mirrha, who refused to assimilate to the styles worn by local women.”
Tuyen Nguyen ’20 curated pieces for the “Soft & Squishy” display case. One of her curated pieces was a Bandhani textile, an Indian cloth with threads tied to resist dye, creating a unique style and texture that is “part of the aesthetic.” Another exhibition was a skillfully pleated lace silk gown.
“What’s interesting about the repeated pleats is that it creates interesting texture and visual aesthetic, and also it conforms to different body contours and shapes,” Nguyen said of the gown.
Jung Hyun Yang ’22 observed the interconnectedness of the pieces.
“I feel like [the exhibits are] all different in terms of individual pieces and design, but the theme and the way they incorporate textures ties them together,” she told The Sun.
The TEXTURE exhibition will remain in the Human Ecology Building until Oct. 15.