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TO SEPTEMBER 3
It’s August already—good thing you don’t have to knit yourself a sweater in time for ski season. Somewhere in Bhutan, though, someone is at a loom right now, weaving and decorating a blanket-size, rectangular piece of cloth that will serve as a dress or robe. The Textile Museum’s current exhibition of Bhutanese garments (woven exclusively by women) and ceremonial throne covers (painstakingly appliquéd by men) focuses on craft elements rather than on religion, the punishing climate, or everyday life in the mountainous Eastern country. Yet this fashion retrospective effectively illustrates the rapid modernization of Bhutan, which joined the U.N. in 1971. Nineteenth- and mid-20th-century pieces, made predominantly of cotton, wild silk, and yak hair, are earthy relics featuring indigo- and madder-dyed threads. By contrast, works completed within the past 20 years are noisy experiments in hot pink, orange, and acid-green Hong Kong silk, with subtler yellows and reds courtesy of synthetic dyes and acrylic yarn. Technological progress may have been a boon to weavers, but would seem to compromise the work’s spiritual element; nevertheless, Bhutanese people claim to prefer handwoven fabrics over machine-made items. Oh well. Give ’em a few more years. At the Textile Museum, 2320 S St. NW. FREE. (202) 667-0441; His Excellency Ugyen Tshering, permanent representative of Bhutan to the United Nations, discusses traditional crafts at 6 p.m. on Thursday at the Textile Museum. $10. For reservations call (202) 357-3030. (Nathalie op de Beeck)