Style Court

Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes 2006-2016


Oprah, Ralph, and Some Stripes

[Chief’s-style blanket, first phase, circa 1800-1850, catalog No. E-1200, Arizona State Museum.]

Earlier in the day I received an alert about Oprah's coup: the one-hour special with Ralph Lauren filmed at his family's Colorado ranch, the RRL. The show is scheduled to air tomorrow (Wednesday, May 18) but I couldn't resist stopping to look at a preview. Glimpses of regional textiles in the background inspired me to track down a few really stellar antique Native American pieces with connections to current trends.

You probably thought I was going to focus on fringe again. Actually, some first-phase chief's blankets, made by the Navajo in the 19th century, caught my eye. Curators and dealers describe these finely woven wool textiles as the purest of the pure. The are no diamonds or other geometric forms in the designs of these early blankets -- just simple stripes and bands of deep indigo paired with brown-black and white. The combination of blue with almost-black reminds me of the navy-and-black stripes we've seen in fashion this season.

Seven years ago a very rare early Navajo blanket turned up at the Antiques Road Show. There's a video clip here, and more detailed background at PBS's companion page. Also, Arizona State Museum offers a helpful overview with nice images.

Related past post: South by Southwest.


Karena said...


These native pieces are so remarkable!

Art by Karena

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Picture of Elegance Blog said...

Thank you for the heads-up...I think the blanket is beautiful!

My Dog-Eared Pages said...

I love this chief-style blanket! Thank you for the heads-up about RRL Colorado ranch on Oprah tomorrow. I will try to watch it. What a lovely picture of ET. Tiny waist! Never tire of fringe. ; )

Janet said...

Oprah and Ralph. . . that's almost worth playing hookey for!

red ticking said...

i cant wait to watch... taping it! how fun... xo

Anonymous said...

The Ute Style, first phase, Navajo blanket is the only pattern that was woven repeatedly. There are about 30 of them between museums and private individuals. A Ute Style was auctioned for $1,000,000 at Sotheby's about 20 years ago. I wove one for myself but that one doesn't count.

Indigo, which is a natural blue dye, only goes into solution in fermented urine. To test the authenticity of a Navajo blanket traders did a sniff test. The brown and white wool stripes are natural from the sheep.

"Blankets" are wider than long because they had to wrap around someone and the stripes were worn horizontally. White traders who came to the reservation found that blankets were not sellable so they instructed the Navajo to produce "rugs" which were longer than they were wide.

The Textile Museum in Washington DC was the first place I saw a collection of Navajo blankets and that Ute Style blanket, for me, was a show stopper. It has amazing dramatic graphic impact.

Thanks for the interesting post. Ann