The Fold Line Visit: Andy Warhol: Textiles
Textiles viewed at the Fashion + Textile Museum © 2022 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Used with permission of the Warhol Foundation
Who loves an exhibition trip? At the Fold Line, we love to visit any exhibit that has a remote link to sewing, textiles or fashion, so we thought we’d take you with us and share our thoughts in a new brand-new blog series. After visiting this exhibition, I was brimming with inspiration and an invigorated urge to sew and share what I’d seen with those who’d appreciate it (thanks team Fold Line!). So I’m going to share my deep dive into a completely unknown-to-me area of work by one of the best-known artists in the world!
I popped along the Fashion + Textile Museum in the gorgeous area of Bermondsey Village, London, with a sewing friend that I knew would appreciate every detail as much as I did. If you’ve never been to the museum, it is a small space that houses one exhibition at a time which gives you the opportunity to really take your time and soak in all the sights. It’s set over two levels with a step-free entrance and wheel-chair accessible lift to get to the upper level. If you are visiting, it’s worth checking out the events as they host interesting talks and tours if you want to get a bit more out of your trip.
I had no idea that Andy Warhol had a background in textiles so this exhibition really piqued my interest. The little-known fact that Warhol was an extremely successful commercial illustrator and graphic designer in the 1950s – early 1960s meant I really had no idea what to expect. Soup can dresses? Marylin’s face repeated on a jumpsuit? The reality is a collection of textile prints that I really wish existed today. They feel so modern and some of them are right on the money for dopamine dressing. These works were sold to brands to use on clothing, greeting cards, wrapping paper and more. I am a sucker for conversational prints so I left wishing I could snap some of these up… but I settled for the beautiful exhibit book instead! So now onto the delights I saw…
The most commercially successful series Warhol created involved bugs… and lots of them! ‘Happy Bug Day’ was used across greeting cards, wrapping paper, stationary and clothing. Warhol recoloured it so there are a few variations and I love how standing back from it, you could be looking at florals. Warhol zeroed in on the butterfly and created a whole host of bold prints in fun colours. My favourite was the butterfly tie top that featured a detail I had no idea about – an armhole gusset. My clever sewing pal informed me it was used to give range of movement while achieving a close fit… something to look out for in vintage patterns!
I am rather partial to fruit prints, so I enjoyed spotting quite a few while I wandered around the exhibition. The apple print feels so New York (where Warhol was working) and was perfecting used as a border print on this gorgeous full skirt. The lemon print felt really fresh to me – perfect for a cocktail dress.
You’ll hear me say this a couple of times, but this was my favourite category of prints. We are a team of gardeners at the Fold Line, so naturally my favourite print was gardening themed. I loved how striking the colour palette is and I wish I could make a little blouse in this fabric! I was also so taken with the very-of-the-moment house plant print skirt. The way it was falling gave the impression of culottes which I absolutely loved.
My other favourite collection of prints involved one of my favourite things to eat – ice cream! The ice cream cone print is a great example of a conversational print. It is so much fun. The pink and blue colourway dress is so of the moment. Those puff sleeves and 3D quilted bottom had me staring into the case for ages. I could also see the ice cream caftan dress being a perfect holiday dress. I always buy greeting cards to stash for later and this ice cream card I got from the gift shop is sure to put a smile on the recipient’s face.
Sticking with the food theme seemed to work for Warhol, I absolutely love these playful prints. I am partial to a pretzel and I would love to make a summer outfit in this pretzel print. The culotte jumpsuit is so cool and breezy, I would love to wear it. I was also fascinated to see polyester creeping into the later designs as it became such a popular fabric. The square neckline of the purple candy apple evening dress is so current.
I am sure, like me, you looked a little closer when you saw that Warhol created a print for us sewers!! The button print is very indicative of Warhol’s unique style of repetition. It was recoloured 8 times and is said to have lots of surviving examples which indicate how successful it was. I loved the playsuit with skirt overlay and you bet I studied the construction!
There were some fun examples of ‘resort wear’ with travel/nautical themes in the collection. I really enjoyed the luggage tags travel shirt and the seashells dress – I would love to wear these on holiday. I was really taken with the flags playsuit that featured elastic at the back to cinch it in and an overlayed top that gives the impression of a two-piece.
Apparently, Warhol found early success in an inventive advertising illustration for shoes that lends itself to pretty joyful garments. O really evolved the colour combination of the pink, white and mustard Victorian shoe print shirt. Wearing that would definitely start conversations. Warhol also worked his magic with hats and socks on these fun prints that were sewn into playful dresses.
I can’t resist a trip to the gift shop and the FTM shop is pretty lovely. I grabbed a copy of the exhibition book which takes you through the textiles with plenty of pictures and just the right amount of detail. If you can’t make it to the exhibition, it’s a lovely thing to add to your Christmas list. I couldn’t help picking up a postcard of my favourite gardening print. Maybe if I manifest it, the fabric will come!
Andy Warhol: The Textiles is on at the Fashion + Textile Museum until the 10th of September 2023.