Week 7: Fastidious Fabric Analysis

This is very hard, and there is a reason there are dozens of books on the subject. I think the most difficult part of fabric dating for me is the apparent subjectivity of it. In a fabric, slightly more wine colored red as opposed to a cinnamon or rusty color indicates different dyes, different fashions, and therefore different decades to the expert eye. This is all fine and good to read in a textbook, but, as the experts write to me in their books and blogs, it really does take training the eye. You simply have to physically interact with hundreds and hundreds of pieces to really grasp subtle differences and appreciate what they mean in a larger context. Sure cinnamon red indicates this or that decade, but what if I find it in a shirting from decades later? Quite confusing.

The best way to tackle the subject seemed to be by starting with the very basics. I read up on early vegetable based dyes, how they were applied, what patterns they might be found in, and how they might fade over time. Then to mineral dyes, then synthetics, and so forth. Grasping the techniques and technologies is, I think, the first step, though it is time consuming and tedious. Have I mentioned that I have a terrible penchant for following the path of most resistance?

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