I photographed the stunning robes above on my visit to a recent exhibition titled "The Emperor's Clothes." There I met Toy and Ron Simpson, textile collector, dealer, and curator from Toronto. I learned that Ron knew my previous boss at Cora Ginsburg's in NYC, the amazing Titi Halle, and of Dr. Ginsburg. Before I knew it, he was happily telling me the history of several pairs of Chinese slippers from the nineteenth century. Light, delicate, and teeny as they are, they befitted middle class women with bound feet, a practice which was fashionable at the time but which rendered their female wearers nearly immobile by the time they were twelve years old! But really it only hurt to unbind the feet, so one could still walk. In the photograph above, you can see how sweetly embroidered the shoes were and how non-functional too. I imagine the women lounging around in bed all day waiting for their husbands to come home… who, if they were wealthy, would never have wed a girl whose feet were not bound! Hm.. Could I have done that?!
A passionate collector, Ron loves American quilts most of all. We discussed the growing interest in American quilting in both Thailand and Japan, which he saw recently at an expo and which I noted earlier in my blog. Apparently, quilting in western style has become increasingly popular in recent years, where it’s called sashiko. My first thought was of the beautiful old silk hangings made from patches of kimono donated to temples that I first saw in Terry Milhaupt’s class at the BGC--not sure if they were quilts though. After an online image search I found really sweet quilts with miniature kimono shapes made from recycled pieces of silk. I also discovered that Thailand’s first “Quilt Show” took place in Bangkok this past September. Interesting!