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1920s dress on the mannequin.

I was a little late to the party, as they say, but still just in time to catch Pina: The Philippine Cloth of Pride, Endurance, and Passion at Lacis Museum of Lace and Textiles in Berkeley. Now in the final days of its run this exhibit closes May 4th, 2018 and features the wondrous pina cloth, which is made from the pineapple plant.

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Christening gown.

Pineapples were brought to the Philippines by the Spanish during the 1500s conquest. Actually it’s the leaf of the pineapple plant that provides the fiber, originally hand extracted and then knotted to form filament threads. The process continued as weavers, on hand looms, created a lightweight sheer cloth that became the “must have” fabric for all fashionable ladies of the late 19th century/early 20th century with the means to purchase the expensive clothing and home decor items such as tablecloths, napkins, and runners.

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Detail of pina cloth with embroidery,

The exquisite pina cloth, its loose weave perfect for warm humid climates, was further enhanced by hand embroidery usually in white but sometimes in color.

Pina cloth was popular among the wealthy in the Philippines (with both men and women) up until the 1980s when tastes changed and shifted over to less expensive cotton. But current designers and stylists are showing pina cloth again, attracted to the history and beauty of the fabric. The prices, however, are still high since there are very few pina producers around. To keep costs down, often pina is blended with cotton or silk.

This exhibit itself is located inside Lacis expanded space off the main store and requires one of the staff members to escort visitors. Many pieces are mounted on a black background while a few dresses and blouses are displayed on mannequins allowing for an up-close look. It’s a no-frills presentation in a simple, small space giving the attention to the fabric. There are examples of pina cloth from the late 1800s up to the 1920s. Most from a private collection.

For anyone interested in textiles and/or fashion history this is a rare opportunity to see antique and vintage pina and well worth taking a peek, but hurry … it closes May 4th. There are guided tours for two or more visitors but at specific times and a reservation is required. (Check the website.)  While you’re there, also take time for the just opened exhibit of shawls – The Fringed Shawl: Transcending Generations and Cultures.

Pina: The Philippine Cloth of Pride, Endurance, and Passion at Lacis Museum of Lace and Textiles, 2982 Adeline St., Berkeley.

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