“To Dye For: Ikats from Central Asia” – Smithsonian’s Freer | Sackler

The Freer | Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C., is currently exhibiting a number of ikat wall hangings, traditional robes, and more current fashion pieces dating from the 1800’s to the late 1990’s.  The term ikat originates from the Malay-Indonesian word “to tie.” The ikat craft became more popular in the late 19th century in Central Asia and was revitalized in the 1990’s in Uzbekistan.


Ikat craftsmen were able to incorporate abstract shapes, including a comb, a jug, or plant life into their designs. The more elaborate the design – and complex the colors and patterns – the older it likely is. The pattern became popular in the 1800’s and simpler designs with fewer colors were created to fulfill supply.


Oscar de la Renta began incorporating the ikat pattern into his clothing in 1997 for Balmain.  For his own label in 2005, he recruited a fifth-generation Uzbek ikat weave master. A standout in the exhibition, his 2013 evening gown with an elaborate train, represents the interior and exterior of a traditional Uzbek robe. Today, the ikat pattern is a staple in fashion labels from J. Crew to Altuzarra, as well as homewares.


The “To Dye For: Ikats from Central Asia” exhibit is on display at Smithsonian’s Freer | Sackler until July 29.  For more information, go to www.freersackler.si.edu.

Photos: “To Dye For: Ikats from Central Asia” – Smithsonian’s Freer | Sackler
all photos by Megan Lee / Meniscus Magazine