Design icons: passementerie


From a series written for ABC Radio National’s Blueprint for Living. Passementerie was first aired on 12th November 2022. You can listen to the audio here.

*

In the world of passementerie, everything is about gilding the lily. The French term is used to describe the fancy trimmings used in clothing and furnishings. In French a passement was a piece of fabric woven with gold or silver thread, or with silk and wool in a spectrum of colours, which was then attached to something else as an embellishment. Lace trimming was included during the Renaissance, too, before it claimed its own classification. Gradually passementerie came to encompass all manner of tassels and fringes, pompoms and bows. Anything, in fact, that would dress up something considered too plain. Most were made by women, which meant passementerie making was never formalised into a guild.

Louis XIV’s sumptuous interiors at Versailles were awash with every kind of passementerie with no edge left unadorned, every curtain fringed as splendidly as were the clothes of the courtiers who surrounded the monarch. And when commoner Napoleon proclaimed himself Emperor a century later, he made sure his military officers wore uniforms heavy with gold braid, the level of lavishness corresponding to rank. It was a clear signal to Britain and Russia, whose own military uniforms were similarly appointed, that the French were every bit as good. The taste for highly ornamented ceremonial uniforms has remained, with enormous fringed epaulettes worn by the French Foreign Legion and multicoloured trimmings worn by the Mongolian Guard, copied from those worn by Genghis Khan’s troops in the C13th. These trimmings give the shimmer of authority to simpler outfits as well, such as the gold braid on a stationmaster’s cap in Italy. Passementerie is defiantly all about clothes making the man.

The idea is common to all cultures, from the intricate beadwork used by indigenous North Americans to the woven wool designs used by the Mapuche in Chile to trim capes. It’s seen in the traditional dress of the Solomon Islands with fringing embellished with beads made from shell or teeth. Always, the more lavish the decoration, the higher the status. In some cultures, such trimmings can be seen as an extension of tattoos and body art, elevating the ordinary to something more meaningful.

Passementerie used in interiors became popular in medieval Europe as fabric drapery for beds and windows become more common. But it was with the popularity of silk imported from the East during the Renaissance that the craft became more extravagant. Its popularity peaked in the nineteenth century with the new middle classes seeking to turn their homes into palaces. No Belle Époque interior was complete without its tassels, and passementerie became almost essential in Victorian Britain, where fringes could disguise the lewdness of a shapely chair leg or give further embellishment to an already fancy mantelpiece. The invention was endless. Just as every surface was smothered in pattern, so too was each element highlighted by trimmings. No wonder that the early modernists stayed clear of it, preferring plywood and pony skin to anything frilled and flounced. And yet when less became a bore and the post-modern movement reared its colourful head then passementerie was the perfect way to trim a sofa in neon-coloured velvet. Listed as an endangered craft in Britain, its traditional home in France has also seen many workshops close as the manufacture of more ordinary tassels and fringes has moved to the factories of China and elsewhere. Passementerie remains core to couture, though, from the gold braids of a Chanel suit to the ragged silk fringing of a Comme des Garçons jacket. It continues to feed our lust for adornment, and a need for our lilies to be gilded. As Wilde said, nothing succeeds like excess.

Categories: Design, Icons, Other, radioTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

La petite musique des vendredis

Le blog culturel d'Hélène Cascaro- arts visuels, cinéma, patrimoine, artisanat d'art, architecture,...

annabellabraydotcom

This WordPress.com site is the bee's knees

Avisha Rasminda

Hi, I'm Avisha Rasminda Twenty One years old, Introduce Myself As A Author , Painter , A Poet.

Ananda Only

an empty space between silence & stillness

A r e w e t h e r e y e t ?

Diversions, detours and discoveries

Nick Alexander

Author of Perfectly Ordinary People, From Something Old, The Road to Zoe, You Then Me Now, Things We Never Said, The Bottle of Tears, The Other Son, The Photographer's Wife, The Half-Life of Hannah, the 50 Reasons Series. And more...

Dr David T Evans, OBE NTF PFHEA RN(T)

Sexual health matters! It really does!

Dr. Eric Perry’s Blog

Motivate | Inspire | Uplift

Cole Moreton

Writer and broadcaster, Interviewer of the Year for the Mail, winner of Radio Academy gold with BBC Radio 4

Wildonline.blog

British Wildlife & Photography

Place, Plots and Plans

The PlaceMatt Blog

viewer site

Barbara Heath & Malcolm Enright - our viewer site blog

Museum Travelers

Cultural travel for curious minds

kirilson photography

the stories behind the pictures, and vice versa

Not-So-Modern Girl

Thoughts of a twenty-something girl navigating her way one blog post at a time

Anthony Hillin

Training, Facilitation and Policy development

Notes from the U.K.

Exploring the spidery corners of a culture and the weird stuff that tourist brochures ignore.

MOVIE-WARDEN

T.V/Movie News & Reviews

SAVING OUR TREES - Marrickville municipality

Community Tree Watch - working to protect healthy public trees in Marrickville municipality from inappropriate removal

MOVIE MUSIC UK

Film Score Reviews by Jonathan Broxton since 1997

A life in books

Book news, reviews and recommendations

150 great things about the Underground

An unofficial birthday salute to a public transport titan

Mistakes & Adventures

What I've always wanted

Expedictionary

Literary Geography

UNSW Built Environment's Blog

Information from students and staff at Built Environment at the University of New South Wales, Sydney Australia.

joe moran's words

on the everyday, the banal and other important matters

The Back Road Chronicles

Curious soul...and it makes me wanna take the back roads!

Francofoolery

My occasionally weird life in France

Wee Notions

Notes on a napkin

Philip Butler Photography

Architecture & Observations

Susie Trexler

Secret Knowledge of Spaces

Rebecca Renner

Welcome to Gator Country

kidlat habagat

Portraits of Urban life

DynamicStasis

DynamicStasis is basically an attempt to think about and discuss integrity, beauty, and delight - in architecture and elsewhere.

%d bloggers like this: