MoDiP’s research, with the exception of the exhibition
‘Threads: plastics wearing well’ (www.modip.ac.uk/exhibitions/threads-plastics-wearing-well), has tended
to focus on objects made of hard plastics. Thus this workshop provided a
wonderful opportunity for us to learn to look at and see garments through the
eyes of textile specialists. I had scrutinised each of the 14 garments in
advance and was amazed by how much I had missed. For example, that a blouse
sporting a Utility label has a patch in a different material under one of its
shoulder pads; a fake fur jacket had been shortened; and another fake fur
object, a scarf, which is more convincing as fur to the touch, has a regular
effect of striations across its surface when looked at from a certain angle.
Some of the garments reviewed during the workshop.
Image credit: MoDiP
Most of the garments we explored have labels specifying the materials of which they are made. For example an undershirt designed as protective clothing for racing drivers is composed of 69% Modal viscose, 28% aramid, 1% carbon fibre and 2% Elastane. I had assumed that it was made of a fibre created from a blend of these materials but learnt that it is more likely that it is the thread with which the garment is sewn together is the carbon fibre element. The reason being that it is much easier to work with than Modal viscose, very strong and maintains functionality at high temperatures. This supposition will be tested by infrared (IR) spectroscopy. An explanation of how this process enables material identification through the creation of a unique spectrum (graph) can be found here: https://www.modip.ac.uk/research/confronting-plastics-preservation/case-studies.
Sparco Pro Tech RW-9 undershirt, AIBDC : 007097.
Image credit: MoDiP
I would like to thank our V&A, Science Museum and Glasgow colleagues for making the workshop so useful and enjoyable. Their different approaches have hugely expanded my understanding of the objects we looked at. If only we could submit everything in the collection to this kind of scrutiny and discussion.
Chief Curator of MoDiP