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Textile Tuesday: Spanish Sleeve

Sleeve, Spain, late 17th/early 18th century, wool on linen, 20 x 17 in.

Danielle Philips is entering her final year as a student in the School of Human Ecology, majoring in Retailing and Consumer Behavior.

full image of sleeve

Last semester, I studied abroad in Barcelona, Spain, and thought that through this project, I could learn more about the historical context of fashion in Spain. I am a Retailing and Consumer Behavior major, so knowing the importance of fashion and consumption to this culture is extremely interesting to me. I decided to choose a sleeve from Spain that dates back to the late 17th or early 18th century. I chose this specific piece because many people overlook just how significant a sleeve and the detail of a sleeve can be; every stitch made was intentional. The material used to create the sleeve was wool embroidery on linen, which was woven and hand smocked. The sleeve has a base color of beige, with a tighter knit part at the wrist in black with four unique gold circular buttons to hold the elastic together. The sleeve has black patterns that consist of fish, birds, unknown types of animals, flowers, leaves, and swirls that match the opposite side of the sleeve. In the details of the animals, such as the eyes or necks, are basic colors to add “pop” to the sleeve. The colors are primary and secondary colors such as red, green, and yellow. The sleeve is extremely thin, fragile and uneven at the bottom. The bottom stitch of the sleeve creates a wave-like shape and is doubled in texture.

detail of pattern of sleeve

Sleeves in Europe meant different things when worn by royalty or by a merchant. In addition, the way a sleeve was designed had significant meaning to the owner and the social status they possessed. During this time, sleeves began to widen, especially at the shoulder area, for specific emphasis on prominent characteristics, which continued on to the following century. During this time, the Spanish fashion culture was known to be extremely conservative. Dresses had very full sleeves that became tight at the wrist in order to be deemed “appropriate”. It seemed, by the way this particular sleeve was cut, that it was a part of a dress. In addition, specifically in the 1620’s and the 1630’s, the sleeves worn were paned or “slashed” to show just how voluminous they really were. The depth of volume was important in Spain because it showed social status; such voluminous sleeves were not practical or affordable for everyone. In Europe, sleeves were significant because it defined who you were as a person in a social, political, and economic way.

Discover more about this piece here.

#TextileTuesday is a yearlong series celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection.

HLATC 50th anniversary logo

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.