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In the tailor’s workshop: an exhibition

Refashioning the Renaissance project is based in Aalto University, housing the schools for science and technology, business, and art, design and architecture. This multidisciplinary environment enables our project to engage with different areas of research and find new perspectives for our research, but it also means that most of the people in Aalto are not familiar with historical research.

Exhibition at the Väre FE lobby.

We came up with the idea of an exhibition, as a way to showcase our project to our colleagues and Aalto students, who necessarily do not know about our time period or about the research we do in the project, and also to kick off the experimental hands-on phase of our project. As reconstructions and hands-on experiments are important research methods for us, we wanted ‘making’ to be in the heart of the exhibition. Sixteenth-century tailors and their craft seemed like a natural choice, especially since it opened up a dialogue with contemporary fashion studies taught in Aalto.

The “Tailor’s workshop” exhibition on 7 January–8 February in Väre FE lobby recreated a sixteenth-century tailor’s workshop, modelled after early modern images, such as a fresco of drapers in Castello di Issogne, Italy. Different tools and materials used by early modern tailors were laid on the two tables, and finished garments are hanging on a rack. Many of the early modern tailor’s tools are same as the ones still used today—like scissors, thread, needles, and thimbles—whereas others are specific to the time period and not used anymore, like pinking tools that were used to cut fashionable slashes in fabric.

Recreating this workshop helped us to communicate a vital material aspect of our research; how does it feel to us these tools, such a sew with a bronze or iron needle instead of industrially made high carbon steel needle. It also helped us to discuss how historical and modern techniques differ and correlate. For example, laser cutting fabric can be seen as a modern take of the renaissance technique of slashing fabric.

As a ‘stage’ for our project, the exhibition allowed us to talk about our project and activities, and disseminate information about 16th-century fashion, clothing and tailoring practices. As part of the exhibition, we also organised a lunch talk event, where we invited people to talk about early modern fashion and tailoring practices with our researchers. Some came to visit Aalto specifically to take part of this event, and it was wonderful to see how many people were interested in our project, and how these centuries-old tools and techniques combined with modern research methods resonated with them.

Sophie Pitman and Michele Robinson presenting the exhibition.

Piia Lempiäinen demonstrating how a 16th century doublet was attached to breeches.

Refashioning the Renaissance hosts panels in RSA Toronto

On the 17—19 March 2019, the Refashioning the Renaissance team took part of the the annual Renaissance Society of America conference, this year held in Toronto. Our project was very fortunate to get four panel sessions accepted into the conference program, focusing on different aspects of lower-class dress in Europe.

Our panels on Lower-Class Dress, Fashion and Identity in Europe, 1450–1650 took place on the first day of the conference, and included presentations from all the researchers of the team. Focusing on the Italian context, Paula Hohti presented the Refashioning the Renaissance project, and talked about fashion among artisans in Renaissance Italy, and how artisans were communicating how they wanted to be viewed by others. Stefania Montemezzo added to this by introducing an accounting book by Alessandro Vignarchi, and unspecialised trader who travelled in remote areas in Tuscan Apennines. She discussed the peddlers’ role as intermediaries between areas and markets in the spreading of fashion in especially rural areas in Italy. Furthermore, Michele Nicole Robinson examined cross-cultural exchange of dress and accessories seen in artisan inventories in Siena, Florence and Venice, with a particular focus on pearls.

We had a delightful turnout for our panels, and many stayed fro the whole day.

Focusing on England and Denmark, Sophie Pitman considered the urban dress among lower social levels of society, especially focusing on the social codes and attitudes towards fashion, as well as imitation materials. Lastly Anne-Kristine Sindvald Larsen discussed the influences of reformation in the dress of Danish artisans.

We were also were fortunate that so many scholars wanted to contribute to the discussion of dress of ordinary people, and present in our panels. This included scholars such as Joyce de Vries and Amanda Wunder, who focused on the clothing of women seen through Bolognese dowry inventories, and the clothing of the women who were admitted into the poor hospital, Hospital de la Pasión in Madrid, respectively. Francesca Canadé Sautman and Alisa M. Carlson touched on the role of hats and headdresses used by the lower levels of society, by discussing depictions of hats and headwear in the portraits painted by Hans Holbein the Elder in Augsburg, and the depictions of women’s linen head coverings in Europe, with an emphasis on Burgundy-Flanders.

Alisa M. Carlson, Francesca Canadé Sautman, Joyce de Vries, and Amanda Wunder.

After our own panels were successfully behind us, we were able to enjoy the rest of the conference. Some of our team members had been to previous RSA conferences, whereas for some this was the first time in a conference of this scale. The scope of the presentations and scholars from all areas of Renaissance studies made sure that there were at least three interesting panels going on in any given moment, and it was hard to choose where to go. It was a pleasure to meet so many old and new colleagues, engage in interesting discussions and enjoy the papers that shed light to so many various aspects of renaissance life. We look very much forward to next year´s conference!

Visit to the Turku Cathedral

On Wednesday 20 February 2019 our team members Piia Lempiäinen and Sophie Pitman travelled to Turku, the old capital of Finland, to visit the Turku Cathedral and their museum storage. The aim of this visit was to study the 17th century burial clothes collected from the cathedral graves in 1920’s, and especially the knitted stockings, for our upcoming citizen science project. Turku Cathedral Museum Intendant Elina Ovaska was kind enough to host us, and Conservator of Church Textiles Päivi Allinniemi from the Turun museokeskus joined us to study the stockings.

There are nine knitted and one woven stocking in the Turku Cathedral Museum collection, and we were able to study, measure, and photograph all of them, and take fibre samples of two of the stockings. While all the stockings originate from early modern graves from inside the cathedral, most of them lack dating. The only exception is the pair of knitted silk stockings found in the coffin of Elisabeth Bure, dated to 1650, a pair we are going to study and recreate in our citizen science project. These stockings are knitted with fine c. 0,7 mm needles in dark, lustrous silk, and feature beautiful decorative elements. We are commissioning fibre and colour analysis of these stockings to help us gain information on and reconstruct them.

We were very excited to visit the storage and were so thankful for all the help from Elina and Päivi! After our visit, Päivi transported the stocking from Elisabeth Bure’s coffin to Turku Castle, where everyone will be able to see this beautiful stocking on 8 Mar 2019–8 Mar 2020 in the A Few Words about Women exhibition.

Intendent Elina Ovaska showing some of the burial clothes in the Turku Cathdedral Museum storage.

Stockings, ribbons, and printed fabric.

Taking a sample from a stocking.

Detail of a stocking found in Elisabeth Bure’s coffin.