Textiles on display at the Fashion + Textile Museum © 2022 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Used with permission of the Warhol Foundation
Who likes an exhibition trip? At the Fold Line we love visiting any exhibition that has a distant connection to sewing, textiles or fashion, so we thought we'd take you along and share our thoughts in a brand new blog series. After visiting this exhibition, I was full of inspiration and a reinvigorated desire to sew and share what I had seen with those who would appreciate it (thanks Fold Line team!). So I'm going to share my deep dive into a completely unknown to me area of work from one of the most well-known artists in the world!
I visited the Fashion + Textile Museum in London's beautiful Bermondsey Village with a seamstress friend who I knew would appreciate every detail as much as I did. If you've never been to the museum, it's a small space that houses one exhibit at a time, giving you the opportunity to really take your time and soak in all the sights. It is spread over two levels with a step-free entrance and a wheelchair accessible elevator to access the upper level. If you're visiting, it's worth checking out the events as they have interesting talks and tours if you want to enjoy your trip a little more.
I didn't know that Andy Warhol had a background in textiles, so this exhibit really piqued my interest. The little known fact that Warhol was an extremely successful commercial illustrator and graphic designer in the 1950s and early 1960s meant that I really didn't know what to expect. Soup dresses? Marylin's face repeated on a jumpsuit? The reality is a collection of textile prints that I really wish existed today. They feel so modern and some of them are right about dressing on dopamine. These works were sold to brands for use on clothing, greeting cards, wrapping paper, and more. I love conversational prints, so I went in hoping I could grab a few…but settled for the beautiful display book instead! So now, the delights I saw…
The most commercially successful series Warhol created involved bugs…and lots of them! “Happy Bug Day” was used on greeting cards, wrapping paper, stationery and clothing. Warhol recolored it so there was some variation and I like how, standing back, you could look at flowers. Warhol focused on the butterfly and created a whole series of bold prints in fun colors. My favorite was the butterfly tie top which featured a detail I had no idea about: a gusset in the armholes. My astute seamstress friend informed me that it was used to give range of movement while still achieving a body-hugging fit… something to look out for in vintage patterns!
I have a weakness for fruit prints, so I enjoyed spotting a few while walking around the exhibition. The apple print looks so much like New York (where Warhol worked) and was perfected as a border print on this gorgeous full skirt. The lemon print seemed really fresh to me – perfect for a cocktail dress.
You'll hear me say it many times, but this was my favorite category of prints. We're a team of gardeners at Fold Line, so naturally my favorite print was gardening themed. I loved the striking color palette and wish I could make a little blouse in this fabric! I was also very seduced by the very trendy plant print skirt. The way it hung gave the impression of culottes which I loved.
My other favorite print collection was about one of my favorite things to eat: ice cream! The ice cream cone print is a great example of a conversational print. It's so much fun. The dress in pink and blue colors is very trendy. Those puffy sleeves and 3D quilted bottom had me staring at the case for hours. I could also see that the ice kaftan dress was a perfect vacation dress. I always buy greeting cards to store away for later and this ice cream card I bought at the gift shop will definitely make the recipient smile.
Sticking to the food theme seems to work for Warhol, I love these playful prints. I have a weakness for pretzels and would love to make a summer outfit in this pretzel print. The culotte jumpsuit is so cool and airy that I would love to wear it. I was also fascinated to see polyester seep into later designs, as it became a very popular fabric. The square neckline of the candy apple purple evening dress is so current.
I'm sure, like me, you looked a little closer when you saw that Warhol had created a print for us sewers!! The button print is very indicative of Warhol's unique repeating style. It has been recolored 8 times and it is said that there are many examples that attest to its success. I loved the layered skirt playsuit and you bet I studied construction!
There were some fun examples of “resort wear” with travel/nautical themes in the collection. I really enjoyed the luggage tag travel shirt and the seashell dress – I would love to wear them on vacation. I was really taken with the flag playsuit which had elastic in the back to cinch it and a layered top that made it feel like a two piece.
Apparently, Warhol found early success in an inventive advertising illustration for shoes that lent itself to rather cheerful clothing. O really evolved the color scheme of the pink, white and mustard shoe print Victorian shirt. Wearing this would definitely spark conversations. Warhol also worked his magic with hats and socks on these fun prints sewn into playful dresses.
I can't resist a visit to the gift shop and the FTM store is quite charming. I caught a copy of exhibition book which introduces you to textiles with numerous images and just the right amount of detail. If you can't make it to the exhibition, it's a lovely thing to add to your Christmas list. I couldn't resist grabbing a postcard of my favorite gardening print. Maybe if I manifest it, the fabric will come!
Andy Warhol: textiles is visible at the Fashion + Textile Museum until September 10, 2023.