Everyday Dress and the Reconstruction of Early Modern Material Culture, 1550-1650
Refashioning the Renaissance Conference
Aalto University, Helsinki/Espoo, Finland
10–13 September 2020
Submission deadline: 3 April
Funded by European Research Council (ERC)
The Refashioning the Renaissance project team is seeking early career researchers whose research combines material-based methods and/or hands-on experimentation with historical research of dress and textiles to give five-minute ‘lightning talks’ during our conference. The lightning talks will be given on the second day of the conference, Saturday 12 September 2020, though presenters are welcome and encouraged to attend panels over both days, and the programme can be viewed here.
There are a limited number of travel bursaries available to lightning talk-presenters for travel and accommodation costs.
To be considered, please send an abstract of 150 words or less outlining your research topic, including questions and methodology, as well as short biography of 50 words or less to Michele Robinson (firstname.lastname@example.org) by Friday 3 April 2020.
Our project is half way through, and it has come time to say farewell to first of our research fellows, economic historian Dr. Stefania Montemezzo.
During her nearly two-year fellowship in our project, Stefania has been leading our archival work in Italy, identifying, documenting, transcribing and analysing hundreds of historical documents that reveal the kinds of clothing items our artisans and small shopkeepers owned and bought, and how their use was regulated in early modern societies in 1550-1650. The core of this research, consisting of approximately 30.000 clothing items that were listed in household inventories of ordinary Italians, will eventually be available for public access on our online database.
Alongside her archival work, Stefania has been working in more detail on an account book of a sixteenth-century Italian peddler, a rich document that has allowed her to reconstruct the commercial and social activity of this small-scale operator whomoved around Tuscany selling cheap textile and fashion itemsfor ordinary clientele. Her work on this rare and detailed account will continue. She plans to analyse the document further, in order understand the identity of the buyers, the role of peddlers in the spread of fashion, the influence of the city on the countryside, and the role of geographical networks on the habits of consumption.
Stefania Montemezzo presenting her research in Renaissance Society of America conference in 2019. Photo copyright Refashioning the Renaissance Project.
We are very grateful for Stefania for her academic contribution and inspiration. She has given inspiring papers about her research in our academic events in Europe and US, and organized us a fantastic textile study week in Italy, with a one-day’s textile history seminar at the University of Padua where we discussed and debated economic meanings of early modern dress, textiles and fashion.
Dr. Stefania Montemezzo is a talented and rigorous young historian, with extraordinary capacity for team work. In addition to her academic accomplishments, she has been a key member in team building team and greatly contributed to the good spirits in this project. She is just so much fun!
I am very fortunate to have been able to work with Stefania.
Our entire team wishes you, Stefania, best of luck with your future research. We will miss you dearly!
Our Refashioning team in Florence in May 2018. Photo copyright Refashioning the Renaissance Project.
In June 2019, out team gathered in Copenhagen for our second ‘milestone’ meeting, where we reviewed our past results and made both short-term and long-term goals. This meeting represented a moment of great joy and pride. Our team members have been working extremely hard, and I could all really see how much we have achieved during the past 1,5 years.
So what have we been up to?
During the first year of our research in 2018, we all focused on identifying and gathering data. This phase is now complete and we have achieved two very important milestones. The first one of these is that the archival research, headed by our research fellow Stefania Montemezzo and produced in collaboration with our PhD student Anne-Kristine Sinvald Larsen, myself, and our research assistants Mattia Viale and Umberto Signori, is now complete and the data is ready to be uploaded on our brand new database. This database, created in collaboration with Jodie Cox from Wildside, will include clothing and textile items that belonged to ordinary families in the early modern period, and it will be the biggest early modern textile and clothing database created so far. It includes altogether nearly 30.000 items from Italy (Siena, Florence, Venice) and a further several thousand items from Denmark (Helsingør). This data will provide and important basis for our analysis, both in terms of our publications as well as our hands-on experiments, and the database will be eventually available online for anyone to use.
Refashioning the Renaissance database. Image copyright Refashioning the Renaissance Project.
The second important milestone is that our data on printed sources, headed by our postdoc researcher Michele Robinson, is also complete. Michele has been focusing especially on collecting cheap printed recipes that were intended for consumers at the lower end of social scale, and especially those that have to do with the care of textiles and clothing in the domestic context, such as mending, cleaning and dyeing at home. This data provides an important foundation for some of our experiments where we explore and evaluate the meaning of both the recipes and some of the domestic textile practices that might have been available for our artisans and shopkeepers.
Book of Secret in the Wellcome Collection. Photo copyright Refashioning the Renaissance Project.
Dirty Laundry workshop, where we tested recipes from the printed sources Michele Robinson has collected. Photo copyright Refashioning the Renaissance Project.
During our second year, in 2019, we have moved on from exclusive focus on data to explore and analyse how various experiments, reconstruction and engagement with materials and textile objects can help us to better understand and access past practices. We have organized workshops on domestic dyeing and tailoring, and we have two further workshops on colour and imitation coming up. We have also been running our citizen science project where we experiment with early modern knitting, and we are growing dye plants in our green house. In addition, we have participated in several courses where we have learned about how historical recipes could be used in textile dyeing; how silk-, linen- and woolen-fibres were prepared in the early modern period; how tailors worked, and how both precious and more ordinary fabrics and trims were woven in the early modern period.
One of our exciting projects is the reconstruction of an artisan’s doublet, headed by our second postdoc Sophie Pitman and created in collaboration with Jenny Tiramani and the School of Historical Dress. This experimental project allows us to explore all stages of doublet production, such as creating finished fibre from raw material, weaving, dyeing , and making and wearing the garment. We are also working with an animator Maarit Kalmakurki to produce a 3D reconstruction of our doublet. This research will eventually form one of the most important ways for us to analyse how digital and material reconstruction can be used as a method in cultural studies of dress.
Fibre Analysis of the 17th century stockings from Turku Cathedral. Photo copyright Refashioning the Renaissance Project.
Stain removal test at the Dirty Laundry workshop. Photo copyright Refashioning the Renaissance Project.
Sophie Pitman reeling silk in Calabria. Photo copyright Refashioning the Renaissance Project.
Refashioning team learning to spin in Trelleborgen Viking Museum. Photo copyright Refashioning the Renaissance Project.
The results of our project will be presented in our final conference and exhibition at Aalto University, Helsinki, on 11-13 September 2020. More information will follow soon, but do not forget to reserve those dates in your calendar!