A few years ago, shortly after the beginning of the new year, an acquaintance surprised me by offering that his New Year's Resolution was to avoid being attracted by decay. This alarming but considered decision struck me as nearly blasphemous. How could one avoid an aesthetic affinity for ruined castles, or the whole of Venice, or the colours of rust and patina? Moreover how could I imagine resisting the allure of the exquisite decay of clothing and textiles? Threadbare cotton velvet? Discoloured table linens? Fraying beadwork? Shattered silk?
Well, to each his own. At the time, I didn't actually know what shattered silk was. In terms of costume artefacts it is synonymous with death. Once diagnosed with a case of shattered silk, a dress will never likely be exhibited, or even seen. Shattered silk: Irreversible, irreparable and yet, irresistible.
An example of shattering on a 17th century embroidery from the Liverpool Museum
Although this blog will most often celebrate the preservation and exhibition of dress and textiles, those barely surviving but still mesmerising pieces are sources of inspiration nonetheless. When the opportunity arises to feature and share images of garments afflicted by time and touch, it will be seized. Consider it a New Year's resolution.
For more information on textile conservation and the effects of shattered silk see Alexandra Palmers article 'A bomb in the collection: researching and exhibiting early 20th-century fashion' published in The Future of the 20th Century: Collecting, Interpreting and Conserving Modern Materials (2006).