Reel-to-reel: with its restless looms, vibrant colours and rich textures, Britain’s textiles industry offers cinematic pleasure by the yard
1919: All About Witney Blankets
This in-depth look at the blanket-making process from the middle of film’s silent era is a visual treat: from the washing of sheep in the Windrush River to the folding of the finished blankets.
1926: Weavers in Kilbarchan, Scotland
Wool production drove UK trade from the middle ages, while it was British textiles that triggered the Industrial Revolution, with great cotton and silk mills dominating the Lancashire landscape.
Meanwhile, the looms provided employment and created lingering cultural traditions.
This footage of Weavers in Kilbarchan, Scotland is taken from Claude Friese-Greene's The Open Road (1926). (1 min 16 sec)
1931: Masculinity in Modes
Women wear the trousers: sample the latest Parisian couture with this pretty stencil-coloured piece from Eve's Film Review. (33 sec)
1946: Fashion Fantasy
Social change is a major theme of the archive, in this case aligned to fashion as personal expression, especially during the time of post-war austerity. (7 min 37 sec)
1957: Air to Wear
As full of holes as his Aertex shirt, Uncle Jeff’s tall tales are captured in crayon in this animated cinema ad. (30 sec)
1959: Everything but Everything in Bri-nylon
Fifties fashion meets carpet kitsch in this futuristic fantasy of domestic bliss courtesy of Bri-Nylon. Don’t miss the eye-popping parade of models in frilly nighties and stretch Nylon slacks ‘Twisting’ their way across the dance floor on the couple's strikingly 21st century looking wall-mounted TV monitor. (3 min 4 sec)
1967: Wake Up To Wool
Escape into the kaleidoscopic (and speeded-up) world of 1960s fashion, where poodles and their glamorous owners sport matching hand-knitted outfits. (33 sec)
1971: London Line No 373
London Fashion Week 1971: the capital’s students strike a pose. (1 min 31 sec)
1974: Surprise Visit
Ideas for trendy knitwear - and promising careers - in this peppy promo film for Courtaulds’ spinning factories. (35 sec)
1975: Who Needs Brown Lisle Stockings?
School uniforms needn't be dull and uncomfortable thanks to man-made, revolutionary thread Crimplene. (30 sec)
1981: Kings Road punks vs New Romantics
Politics and fashion often link, and one of the archive’s highlights is the work of Phil Munnoch, aka Captain Zip.
He documented London’s punk scene with an 8mm camera and an eye for striking visuals. In this 1981 film he shows punk’s decline and the rise of a rival moment, the New Romantics, during a time of profound change in British life. (2 min 4 sec. This film is sllent)
Funded by the Arts Council as part of the Black Arts Video Project, Ian Watts' film offers a potted history of African cloth and design (the kanga is a versatile East African garment) and a showcase for stunning outfits by Tanzanian designer Farouk Abdillah.text
The BFI National Archive holds a magnificent collection of film and television, from the birth of cinema to today.
Explore the Textiles on Film collection on BFI Player to see many more beautifully preserved films.
Curator (BFI National Archive):