Skip to content

The Fabric of Democracy: Propaganda Textiles from the French Revolution to Brexit

Start Date 29 September 2023
End Date 03 March 2024
Venue Fashion and Textile Museum
Location London, U.K.
Curator Amber Butchart

Curated by design historian Amber Butchart, this exhibition explores printed propaganda textiles over more than two centuries. Discover how fabric designers and manufacturers have responded to political upheaval from the French Revolution through to Brexit.

The mechanisation of textile industries from the mid-18th century led to the development of print techniques that could create more detailed imagery on cloth, quicker than ever before. These increasingly affordable processes ‘democratised’ textile decoration, allowing governments, regimes, and corporations to harness the power of print to communicate, from wartime slogans to revolutionary ideals.

Propaganda is usually associated with public art and monumental sculpture. Through this exhibition, explore how fabrics have been used as a political medium both in the home and on the body, through furnishing and fashion. Find out how textiles were used as a tool of the state across the political spectrum, from communism to fascism. Discover how a fraternal crisis in the monarchy played out on cloth, and how democracies promote national identity through textile design.

On display will be textiles from countries including Britain, America, Italy, Germany and Austria, ranging from French toile de Jouy to Japanese robes from the Asia-Pacific war, and Cultural Revolution-era Chinese fabrics which have rarely before been exhibited in the UK.

Image credit: Peace in our Time Scarf 1938 on loan from the Paul and Karen Rennie Collection © Jonathan Richards.


This exhibition includes sensitive themes and content.

There is discussion of war, conflict, anti-Semitism and fascism as well as depictions of war in some of the objects. There are depictions of colonialism in some items on display with discussion of the history surrounding these objects.