Blogs on the early modern – Newton Key: Crowdsourcing the Early Modern Blogosphere

This is an interesting article about conceptualising the early modern and its different inflections, meaning and scope it received in the Anglophone and Non-Anglophone fields and contexts.

Newton Key: Crowdsourcing the Early Modern Blogosphere

The early modern became ensconced in the Anglophone historiographical scene about 1970. Of course, the phrase “early modern” had long existed, sometimes to refer to the first age of humans, more often to refer to a stage in language development (early modern French, or early Modern English after Old English), more rarely to refer to several centuries, and for the latter, mainly in university curricula and mainly with regards to Europe or even England. (for example, Dawson 1888, p. 398; Edwards 1896, p. vii; The Cornell University Register 1869, p. 62). But a few works in the 1960s applied the term to a broad era after the Middle Ages and it graced numerous collections and texts from 1970. Where before one might name royal houses (the Tudor‑Stuart era) or use dates of major wars and treaties (Europe before 1648), from the 1960s one increasingly turned to “early modern” to signify variously 1300‑1700 or 1500‑1800. Two nGrams show the phrase’s dramatic rise as a term in British and American texts since the 1960s (; (Randolph Starn 2002, discovers slightly different progenitors than I do; but we both agree to the sea change in usage circa 1970).


Posted in General | Comments Off on Blogs on the early modern – Newton Key: Crowdsourcing the Early Modern Blogosphere

New Object in Focus: A Fashion meeting (by Peter McNeil)

A Fashion Meeting, an 18th Century Water-Colour for the Printed Gallerie des Modes, 1779.

Object in Focus page:

Ideas about metropolitan fashion spread more rapidly throughout the eighteenth century as travel became easier, communications improved, and the literate gained access to burgeoning illustrated periodicals. The travel time between Paris and Lyon, for example, halved from the ten-day journey of the seventeenth century to five days by the late-eighteenth (Sargenston 1996:103). The proliferation of detailed engravings permitted the rapid dissemination of fashionable ideals, spreading also the cult of individualism, novelty and possibly a new manner of discussing fashion. Printed sets of ‘modern habits’ depicting elegant dress and posture of men and women after French designs by Hubert-François Gravelot and Bernard Picart had circulated in the first four decades of the eighteenth century in England. Cheaper English Ladies ‘Pocket Books’ illustrated existing court and ‘de bon ton’ fashions in the 1760s, but the specialized fashion press first emerged in France in 1768 with the Journal du Goût and in England in 1770 with The Lady’s Magazine. Gallerie des modes et des costumes français (1778-1787) published seventy portfolios with detailed texts and engravings of breathtakingly variable dress for men and women, naming many of the suppliers. By the end of the century, more than fifteen fashion journals were printed in England, France, Holland, Germany and Italy, also providing details of seasonal changes in accessories, schemes of interior decoration, furniture, silver, ceramic and other luxury objects as well as regular coverage of carriage design.

Posted in Fashioning Goods, Object in Focus, Research | Comments Off on New Object in Focus: A Fashion meeting (by Peter McNeil)

Outcomes of the Assembly Activity Area V & A workshop, 1600-1800 Galleries

Silhouette group of Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Aunt Everard of Hailsham.
Pen drawing by Francis Torond, Great Britain, 1777 (©Victoria and Albert Museum, London)

On Friday 13th April 2012 a workshop was held at the V&A to discuss the possibilities and practicalities of The Assembly Activity Area that is intended to be a part of the new Europe 1600-1800 galleries.

The Assembly is the provisional title for the third of three Activity Areas in the galleries (The Cabinet and The Salon being the first two), where the visitor experience will be different from that offered by the displays. The current plan is for the space to use digital technology to offer visitors the opportunity to participate in a 5-7 minute film, made in the style of 18th-century silhouettes. It will be a place where visitors can dress up, perform and have fun, but also gain an understanding of social behaviour of this period.

The workshop had two central areas of focus: ‘Content’ – The space and its purpose, ideas for film narrative and title, the inclusion of music; ‘Practicalities’: the use of costume, film and music and how best to utilize new technologies. Participants included curatorial staff from the project, staff from our Education, Web and Theatre & Performance departments and Corinne Thepaut-Cabasset (HERA Post Doctoral Research Fellow). External specialists from different disciplines were also invited to stimulate discussion by speaking on one aspect of the delivery of the area.


Dawn Hoskin and Nadine Langford (V&A) put the choice of a silhouette format for the film into context, providing a brief history of silhouettes and ‘shadowology’ and considering their popularity in the 18th century. Interesting links were made with the popularity of shadow puppetry, découpage and physiognomy. Johannes Pietsch (Bayerisches Museum, Munich), Patrik Steorn (University of Stockholm) and Pascale Gorguet-Ballesteros (Musée Galliera, Paris) each presented suggestions of what could be an effective narrative and reveal most about the use of fashion in this period. Pascale’s suggestion was to dramatise an entertaining conversation about fashion taking place in the Duchesse de Chartres’ sitting room, Palais Royal, Paris, 1784, giving details of the main milliners, chiefly Rose Bertin, her work, her relationships with Marie-Antoinette and her customers. Johannes suggested a narrative based on the toilette (preparing your appearance for going out in public), perhaps including the powdering of wigs etc. He highlighted the importance of the dissemination of fashion through prints, providing numerous examples of styles and terminology undergoing slight changes as fashions moved through different countries. The development of caricatures in relation to fashion prints was also discussed. Johannes also emphasised the importance of colour in fashionable clothing and asked how this could be conveyed within a silhouette production.

Patrik provided an insight into the popularity of silhouettes in relation to famous personalities (e.g. dancers, composers, singers and actors) in late 18th-century Stockholm. He also used examples of fashion prints from Stockholms Posten to again demonstrate the role of prints in the dissemination of and commentary on fashions. The reappearance of M Darly’s ‘Ridiculous taste or the Ladies’ absurdities’ (1771) in different versions and media over time provided a strong illustration of this.


Sophie Walpole and Nadine Langford (V&A) made a presentation on how we could make effective use of current and future technology, exploring ideas of how visitors could interact with the film and how music could be used. They explained the current move towards approaching the use of technology in terms of information being multi-platform, accessible using different devices and platforms (e.g. apps, web-links etc.). Examples were given of touch-screen panels and ‘dance karaoke’-type programs that can track visitors’ movements and how they may work for our purposes (including being able to provide ‘programmable silhouettes’).

Adrian Deakes (V&A) talked about how to encourage audience participation. His key observations of people using ‘activity areas’ are that they need to indicate that visitors are invited to interact and what they will gain, be non-threatening, be layered (for young and old), work for groups, individuals, and as a passive audience activity. Adrian also spoke about the design, use, deterioration and replacement of costume in galleries. The use of costumes in galleries is problematic, with key issues being that costumes need to be robust and hard-wearing, should be available in different sizes, need to be maintained and cannot feature materials that aren’t allowed in the galleries (e.g. wool and leather) because of the danger of bug and pest infestation.

Jenny Tiramani (The School of Historical Dress, London) spoke of her experience of the intellectual and practical challenges involved in creating reproduction costume for ‘dressing-up’. She felt very strongly about the importance of quality materials and construction, especially in terms of a costume ‘feeling authentic’ to the wearer. Jenny suggested that, instead of providing costumes for visitors, we should instead consider using visitor-operated dolls – ‘half size’ Pandora fashion dolls for visitors to dress in well-made costumes. This idea was very well-received and seems very promising as it is historically accurate as a concept (fashion dolls were used to showcase designs in the 18th-century). It would allow for high quality clothing to be produced and visitors would be able to get a more complete understanding of what getting dressed entailed in this period.

Other interesting areas of discussion included how to convey the importance of bright colours in fashion, how to convey the value of clothing (e.g. how many outfits one person would own and how long they would be worn for), how to convey the importance of body language and posture and how to convey the dissemination of fashions throughout Europe.

Posted in Event, Research | Comments Off on Outcomes of the Assembly Activity Area V & A workshop, 1600-1800 Galleries

The Uses of History: reflections on the latest project workshop (by Peter McNeil)

The Uses of History: Reflections on a HERA FEM workshop – Rokokomania – connecting the past and the present

Copyright Peter McNeil

Read full Paper here.

The 5th Fashioning the Early Modern Workshop with Rococo and Knitting Designers, conducted 13-14 June 2012 at the Carlsberg Academy, Copenhagen, Denmark, explored this question of past and present in terms of contemporary fashion design practice. Carefully brokered by Kirsten Toftegaard, Dr Maj G Ringgard and Prof. Marie-Louise Nosch as a two-day workshop event, it used Toftegaard’s concurrent exhibition Rokokomania (Designmuseum Danmark 2012) as the leitmotif for a series of conversations between thirty participants from many backgrounds and countries. A group of three fashion and textile designers (all women, interestingly) had been commissioned to create design ‘interventions’ that were integrated in the space of the Rococo show. They had been briefed concerning the curatorial intent and had had considerable time to work on the commissions, due to a delay in the timetabling of the show. This allowed the unusual possibility of much reflection, as well as their considered reaction to the show in the context of the HERA FEM Workshop. Smaller groups of FEM participants sat down for one hour with each designer to discuss and debate their design process and outcomes, providing an invaluable opportunity to test on this occasion if designers might make ‘use of (live) historians’ rather than general ‘uses of history’. On Day 2 we had the privilege to meet experts and designers of contemporary knitting, who also indicated the ‘uses of history’ for their practice.

Photos from the workshop and visit to the Rococomania exhibition can be seen here:




Posted in Event, Research | Comments Off on The Uses of History: reflections on the latest project workshop (by Peter McNeil)

Danish Partners’ Report: a successful field trip to London, 29 May – 2 June 2012

Prepared by: Tove Engelhardt Mathiassen, Curator, Den Gamle By, Open Air Museum of Urban Culture and History, Aarhus, Denmark & Kirsten Toftegaard, Curator, Designmuseum Denmark, Copenhagen

In the Scandinavian countries Norway, Sweden and Denmark, the museums own colourful garments made of worsted stuffs which in the 18th century was woven in Norwich, England, and exported to many parts of the world. London Metropolitan Archives hold the Foundling Textiles (Styles 2010) and with good guidance of John Styles I had the chance to see the few examples of mid 18th century worsteds among the silks and all the different kinds of printed cottons and linen. Printed fabrics are relevant for the research of Kirsten Toftegaard. At Victoria & Albert Museum I scrutinized the 18th century merchant John Kelly’s sample book of Norwich Stuffs from 1767 and pictures of the one from 1763. Furthermore we saw lengths of these fabrics in the storeroom and as an extra bonus our excellent host, Clare Browne, showed us Barbara Johnson’s scrapbook dated 1746-1822. In 1746 when the young Barbara was 17 years old and for the rest of her life until 1822 she made this scrapbook with samples of fabric for all her clothes and also with fashion prints. It is an extraordinary source of dress in the 18th century and I am sure that it would be of great interest for many readers if Victoria and Albert Museum could publish it in some form. Kirsten Toftegaard examined printed fabrics in the exhibitions at the V&A and at The National Archives at Kew I saw the oldest known examples of Norwich stuffs which in 1719 with other examples of fine fabrics produced in England were sent to the Commissioners of Trade and  Plantations by the Weavers Company of London.

I want to acknowledge Professor Evelyn Welch and Senior Curator Lesley Miller for the kind invitation and Research Professor John Styles and Curator Clare Browne for their great help and hospitality.

Tove Engelhardt Mathiassen

Styles, John: Threads of Feeling. The London Foundling Hospital’s Textile Tokens, 1740-1770. 2010.

Posted in Event, Fashioning Goods, Research | Comments Off on Danish Partners’ Report: a successful field trip to London, 29 May – 2 June 2012

Invitation to attend RococoMania, Designmuseum Danmark, 3 May to 23 September 2012

Invitation to attend RokokoMania 2012

Designmuseum Danmark requests the pleasure of your company at the opening of the exhibition ‘Rokoko-mania’ on Wednesday 2 May at 17-19 pm

The exhibition draws parallels between the 18. century and the present. The
past is illustrated through selected objects from the museum’s 18. century
collections, here among textiles and fashion. The present is represented by the
British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare MBE and three Danish fashion artists,
Nikoline Liv Andersen, Laura Baruël and Anne Damgaard.

The exhibition is on show until 23 September 2012.

We hope to see you there!

Posted in Event | Comments Off on Invitation to attend RococoMania, Designmuseum Danmark, 3 May to 23 September 2012

Latest News and Announcements

1) Passold Research Fund Conference 2012 “Innovation before the Modern: Cloth and Clothing in the Early Modern World”, 27 – 29 September 2012, Stockholm

Registration deadline: 15 May 2012

Jointly organised by: University of Uppsala, Stockholm University, K. A. Almgren Sidenväveri & Museum and the Nordiska Museet.

The 2012 Pasold conference will consider the dynamics of change and innovation within the production, trade, retailing and consumption of textiles and clothing in the period before the nineteenth century. This requires an understanding of the history of making cloth and clothes, of the training and organization of labour, and of the relative value of technical and conceptual skills. The conference aims to reflect on product as well as process innovation, invention, changes in design and more general shifts in the politics of production (for instance, the nature of the guilds, notions of quality and value) and also consumption (for example, the gendering of cloth and clothing; access to markets and mindsets).

A registration form and the draft programme can be downloaded here:
Preliminary Programme – Pasold 2012
Registration Form Pasold 2012


2) CECS Day Conference, the King’s Manor, University of York, UK, Saturday 23 June 2012, 9.30am to 5.00pm

“Desiring Fashion: The Consumption and Dissemination of Dress 1750-1850”

Convenor: Serena Dyer

This day conference brings together academic and curatorial work on the desire to dress fashionably in the eighteenth century. From faces to feet, the fashionable men and women of the eighteenth century strove to achieve aesthetic perfection. This series of papers explores the process of fashion dissemination, production and consumption which enabled the fulfilment of these desires, and how this related to the concepts of desire, gender and beauty. The papers to be presented cover subjects such as cosmetics and beauty, fashion plates, silk manufacture and the relationship between dressmaker and client. A small exhibition of fashion plates and accessories from the period will accompany the conference.

Aileen Ribeiro (Courtauld) – ‘Desiring Beauty: women and cosmetics in the eighteenth century’

Elisabeth Gernerd (Edinburgh) – ‘Pulled Tight and Gleaming: The Stocking’s Position within Eighteenth-Century British Masculinity’

Lesley Miller (V&A) – ‘Material marketing: how Lyonnais manufacturers sold their silks in the 18th century’

Hilary Davidson (Museum of London) – ‘Recreating Jane Austen’s Pelisse-Coat’

Catherine Flood (V&A) – ‘Fashion in Print and the Pleasures of Picturing Modern life: fashion plates and fashion satires’

Serena Dyer (York) – ‘A Beautiful Bargain: Lady Sabine Winn’s relationship with fashion’

How to register

The registration fee is £12.00. This includes a simple sandwich lunch, tea and coffee. Registration is now available via our online store:

Members of the University of York : Registration is free, but please email to register. Lunch (optional) is £5.00.

3) Conference “Global Commodities, The Material Culture of Early Modern Connections, 1400-1800”, Global History and Culture Centre, University of Warwick, 12-14 December 2012

Call for Papers (deadline – 1 June 2012)

This conference seeks to explore how our understanding of early modern global connections changes if we consider the role material culture played in shaping such connections. In what ways did material objects participate in the development of the multiple processes often referred to as ‘globalisation’? How did objects contribute to the construction of such notions as hybridism and cosmopolitanism? What was their role in trade and migration, gifts and diplomacy, encounters and conflict? What kind of geographies did they create in the early modern world? What was their cultural value vis-à-vis their economic value? In short, we seek to explore the ways in which commodities and connections intersected in the early modern world.

Papers should be no more than twenty minutes long. Where possible we welcome proposals for sessions of three or four papers. To submit a proposal, please send a 200-word abstract of the proposed paper, together with a one page CV, to:, Global History and Culture Centre, Department of History, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK.

The closing date for proposals is 1 June 2012. Successful candidates will be notified by the 1 July 2012.

The Call for papers can be downloaded here.

Posted in Event, General | Comments Off on Latest News and Announcements

New Object in Focus: An Incredible Fan!

Object in Focus: An Incredible Fan!

Paper fan decorated with one of the most famous fashion caricatures of the late 1790s: Les Incroyables by Carle Vernet. Photo: Nordic Museum, Sweden.

Prepared by: Peter McNeil (University of Technology Sidney & Stockhom University) and Patrik Steorn (Stockholm University)

Read full paper here.

Fashion is not just about wearing but also might be about a new way of appearing for pleasure, including the pleasure of looking at other men and women. The object in focus here, an ’Incroyable Fan’ located in the Nordic Museum in Sweden, is a good example of the complexity of fashion meanings. This short essay will range a little across the channel from England to France and on to Sweden, as the cultures knew what was going on elsewhere and were becoming very symbiotic. They pirated each others’ prints, and so French images were well known in England, for example. The French loved English dressing, but they created from its elements much more than the sum of its parts.

Images were on the move. An expanded understanding of fashion supported the transnational migration of fashion-related motifs into Swedish print culture in the 18th century, and the ’instabilities’ of printed matter allowed motifs to travel beyond the printed paper to ceramics, fans, and other objects that participated in sociability and fashionable display. This fan is carefully decorated with one of the most famous fashion caricatures of the late 1790s: Les Incroyables by Carle Vernet. Together with the female counterpart, Les Merveilleuses, these fashionable figures are associated with the French Directoire period, 1795-1799 and the Counter-Revolution movement in which surviving members of the aristocracy and a growing number of ‘nouveau riche’ were drawn to exuberant appearances and an aesthetic of exaggeration.

Posted in Fashioning Goods, Object in Focus, Research | Comments Off on New Object in Focus: An Incredible Fan!

New Object in Focus: Man’s Banyan

Prepared by: Moira Thunder, Victoria and Albert Museum

Man’s banyan, 1720s-30s, made in Europe from imported Chinese silk damask (courtesy of Kerry Taylor Auctions,V & A, T.31-2012)

This is a banyan which is a man’s nightgown for informal wear at home, made in Europe from imported silk damask, 1720s-30s. A banyan of this style is a wide, loose garment, open at centre front, with wide sleeves. The blue silk damask was woven in China for import into Europe and is similar to a silk damask used for furnishing. The length of the repeat is 126.5 cms. It is longer than in other kimono-shaped banyans with 46 to 64cms being more usual and suggests that this silk might have been intended for furnishing but was also suitable for this banyan. The full width of the silk is used across the back.

To download the full paper and to browse through related material and bibliography, go to our website:

Contribute to our Knowledge

Have you encountered this object in your research? In your country? What is it called in your language? You can contribute to our knowledge section by sending us the following information using the form at the bottom of the page above:

  1. more images of the object
  2. textual references to the object
  3. photographs or other illustrations showing the object in use
  4. any other information you may have about the object
Posted in Fashioning Goods, Object in Focus, Research | Comments Off on New Object in Focus: Man’s Banyan

Dictionary of historical terms for dress and textiles: CTR collaborates with Danish Costume Group

The Centre for Textile Research collaborates with the Danish Costume Group

(De danske museers dragtpulje)
which is supported financially by the Ministry of Culture’s Department for the protection of Cultural Heritage.
More information:

A dictionary of historical terms for dress and textiles: (2010-2015)

Since 2004 The Danish Costume Group has been working with terminology of dress and textiles in a historical perspective from 1600 till the present time.
In 2010, CTR joined this collateral project undertaken by Else Østergård, Maj Ringgaard, Kirsten Leer, Karin Grønning, Inge-Margrethe Davidsen, Anne Hedeager Krag. Ingeborg Cock-Clausen Susanne Lervad and project leader Tove Engelhardt Mathiassen, Den Gamle By, National Open Air Museum of Urban Culture. The research project collects and qualifies terminology from many different historical sources.

Read More.



Posted in Fashioning Goods, Research | Comments Off on Dictionary of historical terms for dress and textiles: CTR collaborates with Danish Costume Group