Armlets, Peru, 1900-1968, 12 x 7 in.
Maddie Boxer is a fourth year student in the School of Human Ecology, studying Retailing and Consumer Behavior.
I was drawn to this textile because of the bold designs against the black fabric. This armlet was produced in the early to mid-twentieth century in Peru, and is 12 x 7 inches in size. The embroidery on this particular textile seems to be telling a story through color and motif. The armlet consists of red, yellow, magenta, and blue flowers with red and orange deer scattered throughout. The bright colors and variety of flowers could reflect a bountiful harvest, therefore this embroidery may have represented the wealth of a family. The design on both armlets is only found on the front of the textile. If you flip the textile over, it is black with no embroidery. Even though this textile caught my attention, I realize that this small piece may not be the best example of Peruvian embroidery. Although not possible in this case, it would be beneficial to look at a full garment instead of just the armlet in order to understand how the pattern might extend throughout the whole piece.
Peruvian culture incorporated influences of Spanish colonization in South America, including the use of brightly colored textile decorations. The historical origin of these armlets may be from the jobona garment Peruvian women wear. Jobona jackets are usually bright in color and have patterns woven onto the jacket. A common detail found on the armlets of these jackets are colorful buttons and trimmings. These were not the only vibrant part of a woman’s outfit, as the jobona is what is worn under a lliclla, which is a multi-colored shawl women wear around their backs. Women in the community were generally the producers of textiles. Part of women’s work consisted of making garments when men were doing work outside of the house like farming.
I felt that this textile was an interesting representation of women’s apparel because in American culture, wearing bright colors is sometimes more limited to particular demographic groups. However, in Peru it was interesting that color is worn no matter the age range. I usually notice the silhouette differences between different cultures’ apparel, but focusing in on color has helped change my viewpoint on future research.
In 2019, the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Human Ecology launched a yearlong anniversary celebration of the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection. Over the past half century, the collection has grown from an original 4,000-piece gift to more than 13,000 objects that have inspired and informed thousands of students, researchers, historians, and textile aficionados. The 50-year celebration began on January 27, 2019, with the opening of new Lynn Mecklenburg Textile Gallery, a space dedicated to year-round displays of the collections. Activities continue into 2019 with a calendar of public exhibitions, symposia, lectures, and public workshops.