Fashioning the Early Modern: Innovation and Creativity in Europe, 1500-1800 (Fashioning the Early Modern)

Project Participants

Why did men from Spain to Sweden start to shave their heads and wear someone else’s hair in the mid-seventeenth century? Why did women decide that it was necessary to wear masks and other full-face coverings in public towards the end of the century? What was the economic and social impact of the sudden proliferation of ribbon-making machines?

Funded by the Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA), this project takes fashion seriously, asking the simple question: how and why did certain goods such as wigs, new textiles, ribbons, ruffs and lace become successful in early mod­ern Europe while others failed? How far did these goods travel and how were they transmitted across linguistic, social and ge­ographic borders? These are questions that remain relevant and our project demonstrates how a study of creativity and innovation as an economic and cultural force in the past can help our understanding of the same issues today. In doing so, we will create a new interdisciplinary European community of academics, museum curators and fashion and design professionals. We will work together to consider creativity, innovation and fashion in all its aspects from 1500-1800, its display in museum settings and its relevance to contemporary policy, legal practices and to the designers and manufacturers of today’s fashionable goods.

Over the next three years we will hold workshops and conferences, provide information that will feed into exhibitions and museum displays, produce web-trails and web-discussions as well as producing a series of books, essays and articles. Divided into five themes, we will be exploring fashion networks, new technologies, patents and protec­tion; the designer and the merchant: names, reputations and the language of innovation; print-culture and fashion products; social groups and the circulation of fashion; and creative traditions: knitting in Europe, 1500-1800.

We will be working closely with museums with internationally renowned collections of fash­ion and textiles including the Victoria and Albert Musem, UK, the Danish Museum of Art and Design, the Danish National Museum and the Danish Open Air Museum and the Nordiska museet and the Royal Armouries, Stockholm.

Fashioning the Early Modern