The Fabric of India at The V&A is a no brainer exhibition to visit, even if you have only the very smallest interest in textiles, or just own a pashmina.
It’s a gloriously colourful round up of the importance of textiles in India, which starts with Indigo dying (the word even originates from India), pushes through block printing (how they get that level of printed finery from hand blocks is nothing short of a miracle), silk weaving, silk embroidery (on bolts of gold wedding cloth…oh my, the detail!), and pretty much every area of textile marvellousness in between.
Look out for the millions of iridescent beetle wings hand sewn on a border of a muslin sari, so beautiful you might tear-up. You could be in the first room alone (above) for hours reading about all the techniques. I am now hankering after a yak scarf (tough but super-soft) since pashmina is so last decade darling….
There are fine examples of fabrics, printed and woven, from the mid 1600s (and some earlier) which are in breathtaking condition for their age. I visited with eldest son, who was eyeing up the charmingly niave drawings of elephants from the mid 1600s as potential tattoo designs #modernkids.
Once you’ve been wowed by the making and embroidering of the fabric, you move on to the garments, from saris and turbans through to peshwaz and maharajas coats, all works of wonder, with tiny embroidery stitched on the finest of muslins, sparkly metallic stars woven into sheer silks so fine, the shapes look suspended in a misty haze.
Floor and wall hangings are also shown in abundance, including one amazing example that was found thrown away on the sidewalk in New York City. But I’m not so interested in the stuff you can’t wear, fabulous though it is…it’s the clothes that make my heart sing.
But whatever your textile leanings, go visit this, it’s a joy. For those TWR readers who live long haul flights away, (looking at you Mason Dixon Knitting) I’d say it was nearly worth travelling to London for.
To balance things out though, can I nag the V&A to get with the real world and allow Instagramming? For heavens sake guys, your exhibition is beautiful, let us take photos, we all have low light level sensors now, so those fabrics aren’t going to get harmed. And if you do insist on maintaining a ‘no photos’ bar, please provide the website with more lovely ones that you are currently doing, it feels like the 1970s on your press image gallery….
The exhibition is on until January 10th 2016, check the V&A website for details and if you go, make sure you also visit the newly refurbished Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art, I’ve heard it’s worth a look.
Also, if you can’t go, you can get a taste of Indian street style from the excellent Wearabout blog