Embellishment with glittering substances is a worldwide and ancient practice. Traces of textiles and other artifacts embroidered and embellished with gold were depicted in Assyrian bas-reliefs, frozen in the tombs of the Scythian nomadic horsemen, unearthed with the treasures of the Pharaohs, and preserved in the burials of Andean cultures’ high priests and nobles. Cloth may glitter or shine because of its own lustrous qualities, as is the case with silk, or with the help of special treatments and dyes. Materials such as metals, sequins, beads, or mirrors may be used to embellish fabrics as decoration or to attract or deflect spirits in unseen worlds. Gifts from nature can also be cleverly manipulated into shapes and pieces to simulate more precious materials: for example, the iridescent elytra of beetles reflect brilliant metallic greens and violets as if they were gems.
Today these marvelous creations have gained an additional appeal beyond our fascination for lost and traditional civilizations—their visual verve makes them a fertile source of ideas in contemporary fashion and decoration. Victoria Rivers has spent more than a decade in the search for the most spectacular examples of a universally appealing phenomenon. Combining her artist’s eye with an in-depth knowledge of textile techniques, she draws on an extraordinary array of specialist anthropological research from all over the world.
Sumptuously illustrated and superbly designed, this odyssey through the world’s cultures will captivate those concerned with contemporary fashion and textile history as well as anyone interested in symbol and ritual in traditional societies.
Victoria Z. Rivers
Victoria Rivers is Professor in the Department of Environmental Design at the University of California, Davis.