"The things we make have one supreme quality; they live longer than us. We perish, they survive. We have one life, they have many lives. And in each life, they can mean different things; which means that while we all have one biography, they have many."-Niel MacGregor, Director of the British Museum
*For the complete talk, visit the TED website, where he presents a fascinating talk on one particular 2600 year old piece of art.
I invite you to chime in to tell me if I'm alone on this one, but I love to visit fashion and clothing exhibits here in New York City, and have spent many hours over the years, gazing at the lovely, carefully crafted creations of many designers and needle-smiths. One thing I have often wondered, especially when looking at something old and beautifully simple, is "How did the creator of this piece trust his/her own talent enough to know that they needed to work with such high quality materials?" I have often found myself paralyzed with fear before cutting into my never-find-anything-like-this-again fabrics, worrying that one wrong move can send hundreds of dollars worth of fabric to the back of my closet, or bottom of my trash can. How do you know it is worth the effort?
As I wander through exhibits, more often than not, the materials lists on the description placards include words like "silk tulle", or "silk velvet", fabrics with real staying power, and the ability to hold beautifully vibrant colors for years beyond the lifespan of the person for whom they were made. These fabrics are pricier than the rest.
Are they worth it? Well, they sure can be. Who cares? You do... and although I can't promise anyone else will value it as much, a lesser fabric will certainly shorten its lifespan.
Recent experiences with clients are telling me that there is a sincere appreciation for quality. In my dressmaking life, I am seeing more and more brides who want to redesign their own mothers' or grandmothers' gowns, based on the quality, age, and tactile experience of the fabric. Often sewn by hands you have neither met not heard of, these garments resonate, and they still hold a magic that reaches into the future.
So, I say all of this to say, there is enormous value in shopping at the stores where the staff is knowledgeable about the quality, origin and description of the goods they have to offer.
When the occasion is very special, and the budget permits, consider the following stores for wonderful quality...
B&J Fabrics (chiffons, silks, and so much more)
(a fabulous whisper-light metallic sequined fabric from B&J)
(and the top that fabric eventually became)
Rosen & Chadick (also, check out their 126" wide silk tulle! and many other wonderful specialty fabrics)
(a wonderful silk from Rosen and Chadick)
(silk organza from Rosen and Chadick - raw edges)
NY Elegant (silks)
(above fabric - lovely 4 ply silk from NY Elegant)
Lace Star (laces and more - see previous post)
Solstiss (French laces - by appointment only - only for the VERY serious...)
Now, I don't expect my pieces to end up in museums anywhere... but a girl can dream, can't she?