Fashioning the Early Modern: Innovation and Creativity in Europe, 1500-1800
This interdisciplinary project sought to understand the role of early modern fashion in creativity and innovation, and the way it operated within society in setting trends and distributing textile products.
The project also aimed to generate wider public understanding of European creativity and innovation, both past and present. This included collaborations with museums such as the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), the Royal Armouries and the National Museum of Denmark. Results of this research have helped with ongoing work to create the new European Galleries, 1600–1800 at the V&A, as well as ideas that had fed into our understanding of museum collections in Denmark and Sweden. The results have also supported broader engagement with key questions of European copyright and design, exploring how a better understanding of creativity and innovation in the past can inform actions of the future.
The project was built around several core research questions focusing on the ways in which fashion operates and how the reputation of desirable textiles or fashionable goods was spread across time, space and social groups. In this context, the project considered how objects that may now seem unusual or even absurd – such as wigs, full-face masks for women and beauty patches – first became fashionable and then commonplace.
To do this, the project explored a selection of items such as different types of printed and woven textiles, fans, banyans, mantuas and ruffs. The spread of these items across Europe and the terminology associated with them was traced, to see if they appeared in similar ways and with similar users in cities such as London, Paris, Lyon, Siena, Mantua, Florence, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Malmö. The project then explored how ideas about early modern fashion could be displayed in European museums and galleries, and how they could inspire today’s fashion and textile designers.