Touche, Soutache

posted in: Art 3

I cannot be denied: I am a lucky girl.

Several people in totally unrelated situations have said to me relatively recently, “I’d rather be lucky than smart any day.” The first time I heard this, I was appalled. How could anyone wish to be anything but smart? But if you apply it to business at least, it makes perfect sense. All the brains in the world won’t make your business succeed if the economy tanks or someone beats you to the patent punch. Ah, but if you’re lucky. If you’re lucky, there’s a snowstorm the day you debut your new + improved snowshoe and bam! Congratulations, old chap. Lucky trumps smart and you’re laughing all the way to the bank, except that it’s closed due to the snowstorm. It’ll be open tomorrow, don’t worry.

Anyhow, I am lucky to have found my current home when and where I did. It was a steal and it’s 100% perfect for me, not the least because I live close to the Chicago Art Institute. I can’t lean out my window and spit on it, not that I would, but it’s a pleasant 10 minute walk from my building which means that technically, it’s real close.

[Editor’s note: Sorry to digress, but I simply must share with you what I usually call The Chicago Art Institute, how I always see the words in my head: The Art Insta-Toot. It makes me laugh, you see, to call that venerable institution “The ‘Toot.” It’s like calling your beautiful daughter “Squirt” or the Hadron Collider “Binky.”]

I strolled up with a friend to see the latest exhibit, “Impressionism, Fashion, & Modernity,” and the whole thing just rocked my face off. It’s an astonishingly well-designed exhibit and I urge anyone who has it within their power to see it, see it. Please. It approaches life-changing. I took notes. I’ll likely revisit those notes again and again and you’ll have to hear about Manet and plackets and gouache from me, which is a dubious way to spend your time, but these things are up to you. Really, it’s wonderful and I commend the curators.

I learned a new word there at the ‘Toot: soutache. I saw this dress in one of the galleries and thought, “Hey! I know that motif! It’s in quilts!”

impressionism-fashion-and-modernity-metropolitan-museum-of-art-new-york-california-literary-review-1362408763_b
Day Dress, American, 1862–64
White cotton piqué with black soutache
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

On the card next to this stunning garment was a note about how the “soutache embroidery.” I immediately thought of a sort of quilt, which, while it has variations and even different names depending on regions, makers, etc., is called “Lover’s Knot”:

Red and white Lovers Knot
Antique Lover’s Knot quilt
Maker unknown, 1900s.

 

See what I mean? The motif of interlocking, geometric loop-de-loops is clearly shared. So I thought, “Well heck, maybe soutache is the name for that motif. Maybe that interlocking pattern of lines is called soutache.”

It’s not.

Soutache is “the narrow, flat ornamental braid used to trim garments.” So it’s the trim, not the design of the trim. But that’s okay. I still learned the word. And it got me thinking about all the connections in textiles that exist. We human beings, we just love to make things. And from the prairie wife to the Parisienne, well, we love beauty, too. It was a neat connection to make in my brain and it made me feel so happy to be a person in the world who gets to see all the these beautiful creations mankind has wrested from the earth.

Toot if you love art.

[toot]

3 Responses

  1. Mark Saiz
    | Reply

    Great post. I will read your posts frequently. Added you to the RSS reader.

  2. Zelda Zorch Zaruches
    | Reply

    Well, I’d rather be smart than lucky. You see, smart in itself would be a lucky thing. You can be book smart, but then there’s also the genetic thing where you’re born just plain ol’ smart – like my twin brother. When we were growing up, I knew he was smarter than me, and I always looked to him for the answers about life and algebra and other lesser things. So there you have it, for what it’s worth. Thanks for your blog…wonderfully composed , thought provoking and made me smile. xo

  3. C.
    | Reply

    (Toot.)

    It’s nice to see you back!

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