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Folded and Moulded: Pleating and Draping in Fashion

Start Date 21 September 2019
End Date 05 September 2020
Venue Chertsey Museum
Location Surrey, UK
Exhibition display of dressed mannequins behind 2 glass cases

Pleating and draping are fundamental aspects of dressmaking. Alongside cutting and stitching, they are part of an essential group of skills needed for the creation of fashionable dress. Without them our clothing would be both impractical and dull, yet in the hands of imaginative designers and makers pleating and drapery techniques hold boundless possibilities.

This exhibition seeks to examine some of those ideas. It explores the techniques themselves; demystifying the methods by which various pleated and draped effects are achieved. Explanatory diagrams and real examples for handling are found throughout the gallery, and of course the garments themselves offer the greatest understanding and appreciation of such methods of construction and decoration. These important pieces have all been drawn from the Olive Matthews Collection of dress which is housed at Chertsey Museum. They exhibit a wide variety of pleating and draping styles with examples spanning over 200 years of women’s fashion history.

Understanding the methods involved in making and embellishing the garments on display is only part of the story however. We can explore beyond the practicalities of construction. Garments which exhibit these particular techniques are often infused with social, cultural and economic meanings. In order to delve into such ideas further, carefully selected garments and accessories have been grouped thematically. The concepts of wealth and status, practicality, decorative appeal and historicism are all explored. Specific pieces have been selected for each group, but some items could easily fit into two or more sections. You may wish to think about whether you might have put garments into different categories as you move through the gallery. Beyond this thematic approach, the exhibition is also designed to be enjoyed as a whole; a gateway to a greater appreciation and awareness of the body-flattering and tactile nature of cloth.

Image courtesy of Chertsey Museum, Surrey, UK