215 1,500 years of embroidery on clothing The earliest cultural technology includes sewing clothing and using a needle and thread to decorate it. Needles made of bone, wood, or metal are among the oldest tools.8 The catalogue and exhibition show the age-old signifi- cance of this technique, highlighting examples from the past 1,500 years. Clothing’s material and colour, cut, and design can be selected by design: clothing is a signifier within a society’s communication system. The embroi- dering of clothing is the same as refining and decorating it, inscribing it with meaning. Embroidered ornament, pictorial motifs, and symbols give clothing the role of transporting symbols. Messages (representation, tribal affiliation, etc.) are communicated to the external world and in turn, significance is attached to the person wearing the clothing. Embroidery is the technique with the greatest capacity for narrative expression and at the same time, the technique of textile refinement in which the embroiderer’s personal signature or mark can be most directly applied. As early as the Middle Ages, authorship and personal production, the hand of the person who carried out the work, were highly appreciated.9 Whether by hand or machine, most embroidery begins with a preliminary drawing or cartoon. Today, graphics programs create such cartoons and templates. In the past, people who could not draw found patterns to transfer to the support in pattern books and plates or used templates. Drawing and embroidery have a close connection: illustrators and painters often created the templates for pieces of embroi- dery or embroidered themselves. As Johann Netto, a draughtsman from Leipzig, said in 1795: “People who want to make a modicum of progress in embroidery must at least understand the fundamentals, without which an art cannot properly earn its name.”10 (Fig. 1). Through drawing, some of today’s artists have also discovered embroidery as an art technique – for example, Jurate Riziauskaite (I.11– I.13). Hubert Barrère, director of the famous Maison Lesage in Paris, the hand embroidery firm in which unique work is produced for haute couture fashion, summarised the narrative level of embroidery in an interview with Amy Verner for Vogue in December 2018: “Embroidery is like a language; there are letters, words, sentences. The point of departure is always the needle and the thread. And just with that, you can compose an extraordinary score – an entire book, you might say.”11 Based on selected example from the collection, the catalogue and exhi- bition show objects from different ‘golden ages’ in which embroidery played an important role in fashion. The oldest exhibits were created in late antiquity and come from Egyptian grave finds. The cross-shaped appliqué shown here probably decorated a tunic. It bears witness to the high quality of the emb- roidered pictures of that age (I.1). Exhibits from the Middle Ages and Renais- sance are also presented. In those periods, gold and silk embroiderers were highly specialised, highly regarded artisan craftsmen who worked at the courts of Europe and urban centres for both secular and sacral customers (III.1, III.2). The societal upheavals and changes brought about by the ambitious urban elite in the 16th century had an obvious impact on fashion. Ordinances and dress codes were adopted in an attempt to resist change. Embroidery in gold and silk had long been a courtly status symbol and super-elevating decoration for ecclesiastical paraments, but was later copied by the bourgeoisie and lower nobles and became more widespread.12 In urban centres such as Nuremberg and Cologne – later Dresden, Berlin, and Leipzig as well –, this change had an effect on both the trades and commerce.13 Charles Germain de St. Aubin, the royal draughtsman, documented the situation at the French court and in Paris in his work L’Art du Brodeur . According to him, a total of 260 master embroi- derers worked in Paris in 1780. In 1756, a school for textile design was esta- blished in Lyon in response to the growing demand.14 The first experiments toward the development of sewing machines around 1759 also advanced the mechanisation of hand embroidery. In the first half of the 19th century, key innovations were introduced in which Saxony and its centres in the Vogtland region – the city of Plauen in particular – played a special role. Around 1830, when embroidery machines were first tested, approximately 500 embroiderers were hired in Plauen. In 1857, mechanised embroidery in the region was professionalised as machinery was purchased from Switzerland.15 New aesthetics – and a new appreciation of embroidery – were the result.16 The new look had to walk a fine line between rejection and fascination to gain a foothold in the market but was highly coveted and expensive once it had established its value. Today, on the contrary, time-consuming hand embroidery is priceless. Nowadays, digitally controlled machines do our embroidery. In the premium sector, they are combined with hand-guided embroidery machines or innovations in materials and techno- logy. In industrial production, hand-guided, irregular stitching and the accompanying imperfection of handmade products has been discovered by the fashion industry as an expression of individuality. Embroidery programs are punched in order to perfectly imitate imperfection.17 With embroidery, forms and elements of the cut can be emphasised with precision and the haptics and light reflection of surfaces changed or covered up. Embroiderers have always taken advantage of these functions. The various sections of the exhibition contain examples showing the sys- tematic, innovative use of materials and techniques for special effects from all eras. Threads made from plied and unplied silk, with or without silver foil, are the equivalent of historical effect yarn (I.4, II.7; Fig. 2). Chapters II and VI focus on the use of various materials in embroidery. History in fashion In today’s fashion, embroidery is often used with clear references to the fashion of past eras or old embroidery traditions. For example, explicit refe- rences to the fashion of the 18th century were visible in Louis Vuitton’s 2018 spring/summer collection for women. The 2017 summer collection of Tony Ward had the title Royal Byzantium reinvented , and in 2016, the Year of Shakespeare, Valentino found inspiration in the fashion of the Renaissance. Karl Lagerfeld sourced ideas for his designs and collections from the past and in 2018, he stated: “...nothing is more modern than antiquity.”18 The influence of historical sacral robes on current fashion designers was the theme of a successful major exhibition in 2018 in the Metropolitan Museum in New York City: Heavenly Bodies .19 On the internet platform Europeana,20 the virtual exhibition Past to Present – Fashion reinterpretations compiles and shows numerous examples. Historical clothing, cuts, techniques, and motifs are not copied. Instead, they are reinterpreted in new, unconventional, anachronistic, and often irritating ways – as if designers are following ‘Dis- ruption as a principle’.21Some can hardly bear intentional breaches of taboo that are intended to attract attention, while others consider them to be hip or particularly emotional statements (III.21).22 An examination of the history of costume and historical examples is an important component of fashion education and the source of inspiration for new designs.23 Many artists and fashion designers, including Vivienne Westwood and Seth Siegelaub, have their own collections of historical textiles.24 They use embroidery to empha- sise the historical references that are part of the technical implementation, as demonstrated in the examples from Dolce & Gabbana (II.28, III.21). However, today’s designers are not the first to have sourced from his- torical clothing. A long series of famous examples prevades the 20th cen- tury, including richly embroidered models from Christian Dior with elements of 18th century fashion or the elements from the Spanish fashion tradition that Christobal Balenciaga integrated into his collections in the 1960s. 8 Meller 2008, 28, 216. 9 Gajewski/Seeberg 2016, 36. 10 Netto 1795, 5. 11 www.vogue.com/article/chanel-metiers- d-art-new-york-collection-preview (15/10/2019). 12 Grönwoldt 1993, 10; Bergemann 2006, 94. 13 The situation in Leipzig has hardly been researched. See below. 14 Abegg 1978, 161. 15 Luft 2013, 61. 16 Andrew Bolton, in: Cat. New York 2016, 13. 17 For example www.reiner-knochel.com/ news-and-stories/2019/1/15/embroi- dery-trends-springsummer-2020 (15/10/2019). 18 www.vogue.com/article/chanel-metiers- d-art-new-york-collection-preview (13/3/2019); On the significance of his- tory and tradition in Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, see for example Keller-Drescher 2017. 19 Cat. New York 2018. 20 www.europeana.eu/portal/en/exhibitions/ past-to-present 15/01/2019 21 Geiger 2011, 155–157. 22 Examples in the Heavenly Bodies exhibi- tion and the ensembles of Christopher Kane; Cat. New York 2018, 194-197; von Wallwitz 2018. 23 For example, as a colloquium theme at the Accademia costume e moda in Rome, September 2019: Disrupting Fashion; from Yesterday’s Heritage to Tomorrow’s Future www.accademiacostumeemoda. it/en/fashion-colloquium (13/2/2019). 24 Borkopp-Restle 2016, 45.