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Re-fashioning the Renaissance: Popular Groups, Fashion and the Material and Cultural Significance of Clothing in Europe, 1550-1650

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - RE-FASHIONING (Re-fashioning the Renaissance: Popular Groups, Fashion and the Material and Cultural Significance of Clothing in Europe, 1550-1650)

Reporting period: 2018-10-01 to 2020-03-31

This project combines empirical research with scientific textile analysis and historical and digital reconstruction, in order to understand the development and meanings of dress and fashion at the lower levels of society in early modern Europe, through the investigation of both written and visual records, as well as historical materials and technological processes. The aim of our project is, on the one hand, to produce new knowledge of the dissemination and development of European fashion, and, on the other, to evaluate how material-based approach and experimental ‘hands-on’ methods, such as historical reconstruction, digital modelling and scientific testing can be used as a methodology in cultural studies of dress. We aim in particular to understand the complex material and cultural meanings and processes that were associated with historical textiles and clothing. By developing a new material-based approach in studies of dress and fashion, the results of the project will not only contribute to our knowledge of how European fashion has evolved, but it will also create a real debate and discussion about what is the significance of the 'material' in cultural studies of fashion, and how the historical findings can be translated in our contemporary society to create, for example, more sustainable textile products.
We have identified an extensive number of archival sources in libraries and four archives (Siena, Florence, Venice, Copenhagen) as well as printed sources in various archives and collections in Europe and North America. The creation of our core dataset is completed, and it includes:

• 1227 archival inventories of textiles and clothing (with reproductions, transcriptions, data analysis sheets)
• Online database containing 36,664 garment and textile entries (made available for general public in 2022)
• Dataset if 644 printed manuals (including transcription of 1055 historical recipes)
• Qualitative historical evidence (visual and material evidence, documentary sources, literature) that allow us to contextualize our core data and carry out qualitative analysis

This extensive historical data, combined with our pre-existing archival data, ensures effective results and has provided the scientific basis both for our publications as well as for the methodological historical and digital experiments.

In the second stage of our research, our goal has been to focus on creating a new methodology by combining our historical data with methods of scientific textile analysis, reconstruction, and ‘hands-on’ experimentation. Merging ‘making’ with ‘knowing’ allows us not only to access historical information in new ways, but it also enables us to make our data visible, and to explore historical technologies that were involved in the production of these objects. To achieve this objective, we have implemented the following research activities:

• Three international scientific and five experiment workshops, organized at University of Padua, Wellcome Institute, University of Uppsala, Aalto University labs and Columbia University, with invited experts.
• Training in new methods, including six courses in historical textile technologies and six research training sessions with museum conservators.
• Historical garment reconstruction project, in collaboration with School of Historical Dress (London), in order to reconstruct a 17th-century male doublet.
• Citizen science project, with 35 voluntary knitters involved in the reconstruction of 17th-century knitted stockings.
• Four scientific textile analysis (fibre and dye), done at Aalto Nanomicroscopy Center and Rijksmuseum.
• Greenhouse, set up on our university campus where we tested growing our own dye plants.

In order to ensure effective dissemination of our results, we have organised three academic seminars and convened a series of four conference panels around our research at the Renaissance Society of America conference in Canada (2019). We halve also participated in 38 academic events; given key note lectures and presentations about research in 24 international conferences, and shared our work in several external workshops and training sessions. The results of our data collection and experimental work have also been disseminated through five peer-reviewed green open access publications accepted so far, including a monograph and four peer-reviewed articles. In addition, we have three further open access publications in peer review.

In addition, we have taken an active approach in sharing our research with the general public through our website, social media and podcast.
The focus on lower social groups makes our study new and innovative. Renaissance lower classes have been regarded with suspicion and unworthy of study, in part because many believe that they were too poor to dress well, but also because the dominant trickle-down theories of dress have reduced their relationship with fashion to 'social emulation', which is just passive copying. Our project is the first in Europe to carry out extensive research on this topic, and we have managed to identify a significant body of evidence concerning non-elite families and their clothing and textile practices. This preliminary analysis of this data on dress clearly demonstrates that ordinary Europeans were incredibly responsive to fashion already way before the consumer revolution.

The extensive historical data identified so far allows us not only to produce important new historical knowledge, but it has also provided a basis for our ground-breaking new material-based approach to history of fashion. Through workshops, trainings and collaboration we have explored how the experimental ‘hands-on’ methods, used by museum conservators, experimental archaeologists, historical re-enactors and craft professionals, can be applied and integrated into the studies of Renaissance and Early Modern studies of dress. These new cross-disciplinary methods have not only provided us new tools to access historical information, but also challenge us to ask new questions that are focused on sensory, tactile qualities, and material experiences of fashion. We will also make use of contemporary digital tools, such as 3D modelling and printing, and digital weaving.

The results of the new methodology and experimentation will be thoroughly presented and crucially explored through our publications, as well final conference and experiment-exhibition, and the following collections of essays that summarizes the main results of the Refashioning the Renaissance project.
Examining an early modern hat in the collection of Museum of Copenhagen.
Dye experiment results.
Tailoring of an early 17th century men's doublet.
Refashioning team studying early modern books of secrets at the Welcome Collection.
Refashioning team learning how to spin in Trelleborgen Viking Museum.
Making Invisible Visible colour workshop.
Silk reeling.
SEM analyisis of a 16th century silk stocking.