The Hidden Beauty of Sequins
When we think of sequins, what usually comes to our minds is New Year’s Eve, a holiday when people venture out with sparkling outfits, like if these sequined attires would bear a somehow super power able to shape the future, or at least shed some shiny light on it.
Expressing loud and clear both happiness and optimism, with this little touch of extravaganza, sequins have not been missed on the latest spring and fall runways.
“In down times, in a world glutted with stuff, it takes something really special to get us going. And that’s where sequins come in,” according to Vogue, The out-and-out glittery glam stands out against the darkness of the news.
In other words, sequins are an expression of a societal phenomenon, just as they did in the 1920s, on the silver screen and Broadway in the hardscrabble ’30s, and in the dark, recessionary ’70s, when glam-rock exploded from the suburbs. Sequins are riding to the rescue now.
If these shiny ornamental disks, today commonly known as sequins, are made of plastic and surfaced with metallic colors, they were once made of precious and semi-precious metals such as gold, silver, and copper, and came in a variety of shapes and sizes.
The word “sequin”, itself comes from the Arabic word sikka, meaning “coin” or “minting die.” In the 13th century, Venice produced gold coins known as zecchino. Stitching the coins to the bodices and headdresses of traditional costumes of the region was and still is, to some extent, common practice as a way of displaying and storing wealth. Ancient cultures in Egypt, India and Peru sewed metal disks onto cloth as decoration and symbols of wealth and status. Also, they were meant to ward off evil spirits.
Sequins also trace back to Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun, who reigned between 1332–1323 B.C. When Tut’s tomb was discovered in 1922, his garments were covered in “gold sequin-like disks.” Historians believe they were meant to ensure his financial stability in the afterlife.
With the discovery of sequins in King Tut’s tomb, sequins came flying into fashion with a vengeance. Many evening gowns of the 1920s are absolutely caked in sequins and other beads. At that time, sequins became purely decorative and needed to be more affordable to the general public. This is how emerged the gelatin sequins, conceived by British inventors and made of that viscous substance which could easily melt from both heat and water.
Interestingly, to cope with this unwelcome chemical phenomenon which could give way to rather embarrassing situations on the dance floor – imagine elegant women wearing dresses embroidered with gelatin sequins – acetate sequins, inspired by the acetate film used by the Kodak company, were developed in conjunction with Eastman Kodak. Still quite flimsy, they were eventually coated in Mylar and then dumped entirely for the vinyl plastic renditions we’re used to today.
Whether you are inspired by the King of Pop’s iconic black sequin jacket or by King Tut’s pharaoh rich attires, or you simply appreciate the beauty of sequins and their ability to embellish a simple t-shirt, you may be interested in creating your own sequin design and/or working with sequin and glitter textures.
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