Do you have a thing for Toile?
Toile, or Toile de Jouy as it is properly called, refers to any cotton or linen fabric with a single colour repeated pattern on it that traditionally depicts some sort of country scene. Toile has inspired designers for hundreds of years - it first appeared in the late 18th Century in France, and has been used to adorn clothing, curtains and walls ever since.
My mother was a big fan of Toile - her bedroom had a red and white Toile wallpaper on it (there were two versions of it, the first in our old family home, and the next in the house in Stirling - different Toiles but the same colour scheme as she liked it so much). I'm not sure that Dad really cared one way or the other about the Toile factor in their bedroom...my father is not know for his design sensibilities (I think we can all definitely say that I do not get my design ability from him). While Toile has a certain feminine charm to it, the neutrality of the single colour and repeat of the pattern seems to often distract men from the fact that it is not necessarily a manly print. Gambolling scenes of the country side would normally not appeal to many men. But Toile has been shaken up in more recent times. Firstly by French fabric company Manuel Canovas with their interesting use of colour.
Then it's had a total revamp by Scottish wallpaper and fabric company Timorous Beasties whose London Toile, which also comes in neon brights, depicts a slightly grittier scene than the traditional gambolling country maids - instead it depicts scenes from council estates with homeless people, hold ups and police cars, all rendered in the traditional Toile style.
Toile has often inspired fashion. My first, and only, sighting of the legendary stylist Isabella Blow was from a bus driving down Sloane Street in London. She was instantly recognisable, wearing a blue and white toile Vivienne Westwood crinoline skirted dress, topped off with a Philip Treacy hat on a rakish angle, tottering on high, high heels down the street. It was quite the sight. I can find no image of Isabella in the dress, but here is one of the Burlesque performer Dita Von Teese in her version of it. This was most definitely not a normal look at 10am on a London street.
That collection also featured Toile knee high boots. Not necessarily the most practical for rainy days. But then, Vivienne Westwood isn't necessarily known for being the most practical.
Other designers, such as Carolina Herrera, have been inspired by Toile. Carolina Herrera has a famous red toile bedroom, in which toile is used upholstered on the walls, for the curtains, and on the dressing table chair and sofa. The room was used used to photograph her daughter wearing a toile ball gown from one of her collections.
Most recently, Oscar de la Renta has used Toile in his new Autumn/Winter collection in rich colours, which fits with the overall bohemian feel of this season's collections (the jewellery is particularly lovely).
So tell me, any Toile at your place?
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