As we enter the twenty first century, we are reminded that the lifestyle of our grandparents is long gone. Today, we are living amidst the increasing homogenization of our world’s cultures.
The clothing we wear is an excellent example: Todays clothing is less mandated by our traditions, and more by the seasonal, or yearly marketing of the latest fashion trends.
Of course, all the clothing in this exhibition is hand made, as were all clothing and textiles created more than 200 years ago.
It is almost unthinkable to our liberated, modern mind that there ever was a time when people
were not free to wear what they chose, whenever they chose to wear it.
Historically, people were forbidden (sometimes by custom, and other times by their rulers) to wear anything other than the styles, colors, and materials which were specifically designated to represent their place in society.
For example, in Western Europe, prior to the social emancipation of the French Revolution, there were numerous restrictions on all manner of clothing: in England, the imported dye indigo was forbidden, and the local dye woad was mandated.
Even one’s patterns of dress were severely structured: in Europe, the serfs were easily identified outside of their indenture by the style and pattern of their clothing. Materials and colors were also restricted: Silks, velvets, satins, and even some animal pelts were forbidden to all but those of the upper class. Purple was, of course, the Royal Color, and forbidden to all but royalty.
Traditional cultures along the Silk Road have for many centuries ordained certain styles of dress for specific occasions. This was also true for one’s age, gender, marital status, profession, religion, class and tribal affiliation.
In the Ottoman Empire for example, religion and class dictated which colors one was permitted to wear - under the most severe penalties.
Central Asia is home to silks, ikats, velvets and embroideries. The landscape can be barren, bleak and inhospitable. Amidst this background, local women have for milennia created brilliant decorations and embellishment. Please note: as with other peoples, patterns and usage are specific to tribe, geographic area, as well as class of the wearer.
This exhibition is dedicated to the brilliance of the human spirit. Those women who chose to uplift themselves despite the restrictions of their society and local conditions, and thus created art and beauty from amongst the most primitive conditions, and often with the most slender of means.
To all those unknown women who spun gold from straw. We salute you.
Saul & the Sun Bow crew - September 2007