Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Shilliam, Nicola J. “From Bohemian to Bourgeois: American Batik in the Early Twentieth Century.” Contact, Crossover, Continuity: Proceedings of the Fourth Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, September 22–24, 1994 (Los Angeles, CA: Textile Society of America, Inc., 1995), pp. 253–263.


Copyright © 1994 Nicola J. Shilliam


In 1919 Pieter Mijer wrote in his influential book Batiks and How to Make Them, "Batik is still a comparatively recent importation; brought here some ten years ago, it was met with absolute incomprehension and lack of interest, but its real merit as a means of decorating fabrics has earned it a place in the industrial art of the nation and year by year it is gaining wider recognition."

This paper briefly considers the rise and fall in popularity of batik in America in the period Mijer indicated: how it changed from being a foreign import chiefly seen in museums with ethnographic collections to being a high fashion fabric with a rather brief span of popularity. It also investigates the role of certain American artists, designers, educators, and department stores in the appropriation and transformation of this unfamiliar technique and its associated motifs by the textile industry as a commercial venture.