‘In America: A Lexicon of Fashion’ Review: Redefining What Constitutes a Nation’s Style

New York

In 1996, a patchwork quilt made by Adeline Harris Sears of Rhode Island was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art for its American Wing. Sears began work on the quilt in 1856 and used a pattern called Tumbling Blocks, introduced to quilting earlier in that decade though it dates back to Ancient Greek mosaics. The strict gridlike pattern is also called Baby’s Blocks as well as the more abstract “cubework.” Its optical vibration is enormous. In the Sears quilt the white-silk tops of its 360 cubes have been signed in ink by the leading lights of mid-1800s America. Sears sent all these luminaries a piece of silk to autograph, and among the many who complied were eight American presidents, including Abraham Lincoln. Look closely and you see that each cube is set inside a star.