I want some fabric that looks like it came from El Greco painting
February 1, 2009 9:51 PM   Subscribe

How do I find fabric that looks like it came from an El Greco painting?

I want take some photos with the awesome El Greco palate and the typical folds. This is what I am thinking about: 1, 2, 3 4. Am I right in thinking velvet would be closest? Where can I find the largest selection of colors in New York?
posted by shothotbot to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Velvets could work, especially silk varieties rather than synthetic variants. That said: you might also consider a heavier, fuller-bodied silk fabric with a slub, such as dupioni. Dupioni is crisp with a tight weave and would be easy to drape, giving you the distinct folds and shape you see in El Greco paintings such as the ones you linked. It will also give you more natural luster than velvet due to the weave. For these reasons, you'd probably be better off with dupioni than velvet. It could end up saving you a lot of heartache and time in terms of sheer workability for the visual effect it appears you're going for.

Unfortunately, I can't recommend any specific vendors in NYC. Good luck!
posted by teamparka at 10:08 PM on February 1, 2009

Velvet would be too heavy. It doesn't hold crisp folds well, instead draping heavily and doing its own thing. Sarabeth is correct in that you want dupioni silk. Unfortunately it can be pretty pricey. You could also look at taffetas, specifically heavy silk taffeta, which comes in a variety of colors. Taffeta doesn't have the depth of natural color like dupioni does, but it has that characteristic crispness.

It sounds like a gorgeous idea for a photo shoot! I'm sorry that I can't help you with local NYC suggestions, but taffeta is very common.
posted by Mizu at 10:28 PM on February 1, 2009

Best answer: Both velvet and shiny fabrics like silk diupioni are really difficult to photograph, especially if you're using a flash. Neither of those fabrics photograph uniformly, and the color will differ dramatically depending on their angle from the camera, and not in ways you'd expect.

A matte fabric, like a wool or silk crepe would work well and have the right body. Linen could also work favorably and it would be available in a number of bright colors. Keep in mind that if you sitck with fabrics from the time period of the paintings, you're more likely to find an acceptable match.

Mood is the biggest fabric store in Manhattan and in the garment district and it has a huge varieity of fabric colors and types. It will be your best bet if you aren't 100% sure what you want.

I'll be going to be there tomorrow at around 11 o'clock doing my annual fabric buy. You can PM if you want to meet up or look for the girl with the hair bun and the bright blue scarf. I have a lot of experience with sewing and photographing fabric and I'd be happy to help you out.
posted by Alison at 10:43 PM on February 1, 2009

Yeah, I'd say taffeta as well. Silk taffeta can get pretty expensive, but there are some decent blends out there and there's always synthetic taffeta available as well- the shine on that might actually work to your advantage in some cases- like in the picture where the blue fabric has a white sheen. In Manhattan, I'd go to the garment district and start at B&J (they're on 7th Ave between 37th and 38th). They're the most organized and novice-friendly of all the fabric stores IMHO- everything is sorted and very clearly labeled. Once you know what you're looking for, Mood has a huge selection and usually better prices (the website's not really that helpful- the selection in the store is waaay better). There's also a little hole in the wall place (I think on 36th) that's great for taffeta and silk, but I can't remember the name right now... I'll re-post or me-mail it to you when it comes to me.
posted by Thin Lizzy at 10:55 PM on February 1, 2009

Not an expert here, but I do want to suggest looking at cotton muslin. Theaters use this to cover wooden frames, add sizing and paint, and then use that as set "walls". I think they use it because it's so cheap.

The thing is, it does fold and drape kind of all wrinkly-like, as in the example images you sent. I wonder if it's so cheap because the type of weave/fiber is old fashioned. It's not too heavy, but I remember it having a nice body to it. I don't know that it comes in many colors. You can buy huge swathes of it since it's not that expensive (I think).
posted by amtho at 3:51 AM on February 2, 2009

It's expensive but silk that has a weave of two different colours will look like that.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:23 AM on February 2, 2009

Sorry this is so late, but I finally remembered- try Weavers on 39th. They have an amazing selection of wholesale silk and poly silk. You can get a little card with swatches of all the available colors and types and it's the cheapest I've found.
posted by Thin Lizzy at 11:01 PM on February 6, 2009

Response by poster: I went with the silk Dupioni. Extra credit to Alison who met me at Mood. Cheers Alison! You can see some rough shots here.
posted by shothotbot at 5:14 PM on March 4, 2009

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