History Love: Textiles at the ROM

I took these photos about a year ago at the Patricia Harris Gallery of Textiles and Costume in Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum. I'm usually not one of those people who takes pictures in museums. On this day, however, the gallery was really quiet--often empty except for me--and I fell in love with some of the pieces. I figured I might be able to share the pics or, at least, be re-inspired by them one day. So today's the day I share!

Before I continue, I'll be totally honest and say I don't remember the specifics of these pieces anymore. I know, I know. Bad history lover, bad! I still think they're enjoyable as pieces of art.

I remember being struck by the craftsmanship of the textiles I saw that day. Just look at the close-up of the lacework I posted before the jump:

I've seen women making Belgian lace on TV and it blew my mind, it's hard for me to grasp the kind of skill that went into adding a pastoral scene to the mix.

The same goes for the embroidery I saw:

It was two dresses that really won me over, though.

Anyone really close to me probably knows how much I love early modern European clothing, from the everyday to the luxurious. I'm especially fond of 18th century French clothing thanks to one of my history professors and his amazing French culture class. You thought the 1980s were bold? Try hair so high it threatened to catch on fire when it brushed chandeliers. Then put some birds and/or model ships in that hair. Try dresses so wide that women could not fit through the doorways. Imagine being poor and knowing that nonsense was en vogue.

I have daydreams about what it would be like to dress in something authentic from that period just once in my life--maybe without ships battling in my hair. No, scratch that. Ships battling in my hair sounds fantastic.

I imagine myself at Marie-Antoinette's place. We're kicking back chatting. I'm winking at Count Fersen. He's winking back.

Marie-Antoinette: Is that The Battle of the Chesapeake in your hair?

Me: Why yes, it is madame.

M-A: Cool. Tomorrow you should dress peasant-chic and you can help me milk cows with my posse and me.

Me: Sweet!

Ahem. End scene.

Irreverent and ridiculous historical daydreams aside, the fashions fascinate me. Apparently the ROM has one of Marie-Antoinette's dresses that someone later altered. I hoped I would get to see it, but I had to settle for these stunning creations instead.

This green and white dress is from a later date. If I remember correctly, it is English and from the 19th century.

There are a total of 50,000 pieces from all over the world in the ROM's textiles collection with about 200 articles in rotation. I'm sure the next time I go I will see something different and have another ridiculous daydream.

If you are ever in Toronto, I highly recommend a visit to the ROM. The museum itself is beautiful (heck, even the subway stop is cool) and full of incredible artifacts and exhibitions ranging from the scientific to the historical--there's definitely something for everyone.