7 years ago I graduated from Seattle Pacific University with a four year Degree in Journalism. But something I don’t talk about very much is that my initial major was actually Apparel Design (it then became my minor). Clothing and textiles have fascinated me for as long as I can remember, and I’ve been sewing them together into my own designs since I was 5 years old. The daughter of a seamstress, it’s not shocking that I would have an interest in sewing or design. But as I’ve grown older I’ve become more and more interested in the cultures behind the textiles I’m drawn to.
I have a pretty broad ethnic heritage, so there’s a lot to draw off within my own family history. But more than anything, I love seeing the history and stories of textiles when I’m traveling. When I was in Scotland, a couple months ago, I was mesmerized by the National Museum‘s textile exhibits in Edinburgh. If you haven’t been, I would highly suggest visiting, especially if you have an interest in fashion, textiles or the history of women’s clothing.
This week I thought it would be fun to do a bit more research into some of my favorite textile trends. All of these textiles are from cultures that I’m descended from, and they’re each very important to me. The beauty of being tri-racial (it’s a word, just go with it) is that I get to enjoy all of these beautiful cultures, simultaneously. Luckiest girl? I like to think so.
Scandinavia (Denmark and Norway)
If you know me you know that I love floral patterns more than life. Maybe it has to do with my hippy 4-H childhood, or maybe just my love for nature and the beauty of plant life, but I have too many floral dresses in my closet to count. I’ll attribute some of this, from the artistic point of view, to the Scandinavian side of my family.
My mom’s side of the family is very proud (like seriously, they never stop talking about it) Norwegian and Dane. I haven’t been to Norway before, but I did go to Denmark about a month ago and I guess I kind of understand the hype, now. After all, it’s literally one of the happiest places on earth. Another great way of experiencing a “next best thing to authentic” Scandinavian experience, for those of you in the PNW, is for your to visit the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle. Like seriously, it’s amazing and definitely worth carving our a few hours to walk through.
Cherokee and Muscogee (Creek) Nations
It’s probably not shocking to you that Native American textiles are something that can (and probably will) take your breath away. They’re some of the oldest and most brilliant designs we know of, and I’m proud that this is a part of my heritage. Native American textiles have always been something I’ve been in love with, and it’s a large part of my personal style, as well as the aesthetic I bring to my art. I love bold colors, and I love intricate details that take hours and hours and hours to complete.
Although I’m quite a bit Native American, these are the cultures I talk about the least. There’s a reason for that. Since I was raised in the Pacific Northwest, with my mom’s family, I haven’t had as much exposure to a lot of my southern roots. Ethnically, however, I have DNA ties back to both Cherokee and Muscogee (Creek) tribes.
African American heritage, of course, is a mixture of African culture and the resources that were available in the land slaves were brought to. While it’s harder to pinpoint specific designs as being part of my family’s history, there has always been a part of me in love with the intricate simplicity behind designs I do have access to. African designs, as well, are something I love, especially the boldness of of the textiles. As a seamstress is the culture of quilts and quilting and storytelling has also captivated me from childhood. Although I am definitely “beginner status” I love quilting, and if I had more time it would definitely make into my life, more.
I may not be able to trace my roots back to exact spots in Africa (yet), but I am able to love and reflect on the culture that arose from the ashes of slavery.
Have a favorite textile, pattern or period of clothing? Comment in the section below and let me know!