Fabric in Fashion Projection Mapping

In the summer of 2018, Elizabeth Way, The Museum at FIT’s assistant curator of costume, began planning an exhibition called Fabric in Fashion (Dec 2018 – May 2019) that would explore the cultural history of textiles in Euro-American women’s fashion over the last two and a half centuries.

At the entrance of the gallery, Ms. Way wanted to display a projection of rotating textile images onto a toile (a copy of a dress made from plain, muslin fabric) in order to enhance and expand the range of textiles that could be included in the exhibition and to engage visitors with textiles in a way that was dynamic and inviting.

To this end, MFIT embarked on its first projection mapping project. To create the video, we used images of textiles from the museum’s permanent collection. These textiles came from a range of cultures, countries, and time periods and included both fashion and traditional fabrics. The intent was to show how the weave, texture, and pattern of a textile can alter the effect and impact of dress design. Some digital manipulation of the images was required to scale the patterns in a way that would appear appropriate and natural when projected onto the toile.

Once the video of textile images was complete, we used projection mapping software to fill four quadrants of the toile (an 18th-century robe à la française) with video. The four quadrants included one bodice and three skirt panels. For the center skirt panel, we scaled the video larger in order to emphasize how the scale of textile patterns affect design. Mesh warping was utilized on the mapped quadrants on the bodice and panier panels in order to simulate folds in the fabric.

In total, 10 different fabrics were projected onto the toile in rotation, including a Kente cloth, a Boteh tapestry shawl fabric from India, a madras-style plaid, a cheetah fur, and a contemporary Toile de Jouy. The projection greeted visitors at the entrance to the exhibition and ran during gallery hours. MFIT allows visitor photography in the gallery, and this projection mapping project was a popular element of Fabric in Fashion.