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Hampshire Museums

Passion for Pattern

Treasures from afar

Exotic pattern motifs take their inspiration from different cultures and styles across the world.

They give a rich, decorative and colourful pattern and are often influenced by events and trends in fashion and society. A sense of the exotic can be created through texture and colour with gold thread providing sparkle, and velvet and devore fabrics adding the elements of touch and depth.

Motifs can be stylised or representational. They conjure images of distant lands and cultures and are often associated with a particular country. In the displays, bamboo leaves and lotus blossoms have been used in two nightgowns which link the patterns with Japan and the Far East.

Other motifs include images that are not usually found in Britain, such as elaborate shells and coral. Examples of these can be seen in the display where a stylised conch shell is used to create a richly coloured pattern, and coral is given depth by using devore fabric for extra texture and sheen.

One of the most famous exotic design motifs is the Paisley design (right). Its origins are uncertain but it is generally believed that the shape has evolved from a stylised flower head, stem or palm leaf. The motif developed in India and first appeared in the West in the 18th century when shawls displaying the motif were imported. The design was later adapted and imitations were made, most notably in Scotland. The production of shawls was so popular that the design became known as Paisley, after the town where they were made.

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    Blouse and skirt c1945-50
    Silk printed with complex abstract shell design in blue, white, yellow, red and green
    Accession number C1988.74.1-3

     

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    Sleeveless evening dress 1960s
    Synthetic fibre woven with metal thread in an abstract floral and leaf design
    Accession number C1999.18.1

     

 
Paisley patterned fabric