Toronto: Textile Museum goes cutting edge

The symphony of colours, patterns, textures, forms and silhouettes in fashion transcribes into a cultural and historical dialogue into the Textile Museum of Canada’s exhibit, The Cutting Edge (to July 7, $12, 55 Centre Ave., 416-599-5321, textilemuseum.ca).

The exhibit features a diverse collection that ranges from kimonos and saris to chemises and couture. Many pieces are displayed with their draft patterns, revealing the shape and cuts, like fossils preserving a rich cultural history. The patterns of the French chemise (a Renaissance undergarment) for instance, indicate that it is a full-length, one-piece dress. Curator Patricia Bentley notes that woman did not wear underpants until the 19th century, which meant nothing stood between the chemise and the nude body. Thus, a glimpse of the bare ankle beneath the chemise under full-length dresses was considered most erotic at the time. Having the bare ankle as a sex symbol paints a vivid portrait of the fashion from this historical French era, no?

Fast forward to the 20th century haute couture of Issey Miyake. “Zig Zag” (shown) is the embodiment of modern aesthetics. This woven polyester gown takes the form of a geometric origami sculpture. The resemblance of the fabric to paper is a result of the designer’s signature pleating technique. Also on display is a polyester jersey piece from the designer’s legendary A-POC (A Piece Of Cloth) label. In the 1990s, the Japanese designer invented a manufacturing process that eliminated the traditional cut-and-sew method—meaning the garment is made with literally just a piece of cloth. A seamless garment! That’s like… defying gravity!

During your visit to the museum, be sure not to miss the excellent permanent collection. As the cozy science centre–equivalent for fashion, the Textile Museum dives into the art of fabric down to the very thread. Sometimes we forget that beneath the glamour, the beautiful garments we lay over our bodies everyday are merely pieces of sewn cloth.