The V&A holds the national collection of Textiles and Fashion, which spans a period of more than 5000 years, from Predynastic Egypt to the present day. Almost all textile techniques are represented, including woven, printed and embroidered textiles, lace, tapestries and carpets.
The Clothworkers' Centre for the Study and Conservation of Textiles and Fashion
The Clothworkers' Centre for the Study and Conservation of Textiles and Fashion is located at Blythe House, at Olympia in West London. The aim of the Clothworkers’ Centre is to provide the best possible access to the Museum’s outstanding collection of textiles and fashion in a relaxed and peaceful environment.
The kimono is a Japanese traditional garment worn by men, women and children. In kimono it is the pattern on the surface, rather than the cut of the garment, that is significant. Indications of social status, personal identity and cultural sensitivity are expressed through colour and decoration. The kimono worn by women, particularly the young, were the most richly decorated and it is generally these that survive in collections like that of the V&A.
Quilting and Patchwork
Quilting can be traced back at least to the Middle Ages. The term usually means two layers of fabric sandwiching a thickish padding or interlining, all held together by lines of stitching. Patchwork is often associated with quilting and involves sewing together pieces of fabric into a larger design.
Tapestry is an ancient technique of weaving. The pattern is woven in blocks of coloured weft thread which are then beaten down very tightly on the warp threads, producing a picture or pattern. The V&A's collection includes four 15th-century examples, known as The Devonshire Hunting Tapestries, and Raphael's cartoons of tapestries for the Sistine Chapel.
Spanning four centuries, the V&A’s Fashion collection is the largest and most comprehensive collection of dress in the world. Key items in the collection include rare 17th-century gowns, 18th-century ‘mantua’ dresses, 1930s eveningwear, 1960s daywear and post-war couture. Plus a growing number of pieces from 21st-century designers.
Among the Theatre and Performance collections there are over 3,500 stage costumes and accessories - ranging from complete outfits to individual headdresses. All are a tribute to the creativity and skills of designers and costume makers from the mid 18th century to today, in every kind of live performance - drama, opera, dance, musicals, pantomime, rock and pop, music hall, cabaret, circus.
Textiles in the Archive of Art & Design
The Archive of Art and Design's holdings for Fashion Textiles demonstrate a number of different facets of the creative process, from the design of textiles to their production and promotion to costume research. There is also an extensive collection of sewing and knitting patterns.