I was lucky enough to be granted an Early Career Bursary to attend the HERA funded Fashioning the Early Modern: Creativity and Innovation in Europe, 1600-1800 Conference, held at the V&A on the 14th and 15th September. Unfortunately, I was only able to attend the first day of the conference, but will give an overview of the papers presented that day.
Overall, the Fashioning the Early Modern project asks questions such as how and why did certain goods such as wigs, new textiles, ribbons, ruffs and lace become successful in early modern Europe while others failed, and how far did these goods travel and how were they transmitted across linguistic, social and geographic borders? This project will also feed into the refurbishment of the 160–1800 galleries at the V&A.
The conference was organised into three themes: innovation, reputation and dissemination. As I was only able to attend on the first day, I was only able to hear the papers on the first two themes.
The first paper, presented by Evelyn Welch (QMUL), was entitled Hurly Burly: Innovation in Early Modern Europe and was the first paper in the Innovation session. This paper considered the new discoveries of the early modern period, and the public fascination with novelty. Masks, black twist and patches were used as case studies to examine why these objects became fashionable and how these fashions spread. This was followed by an excellent paper by John Styles (Hertfordshire) entitled Fashion and Innovation in Early Modern Europe. This paper questioned our definitions of fashion, and identified the multiplicity of meaning associated with our use of the word. Primarily, this paper focused on the study of fashion as identity versus the study of fashion as change. After a short break Giorgio Riello (Warwick) presented Governing Innovation: The Political Economy of Textiles in the Eighteenth Century, which considered the role of the state in the production, trade and consumption of textiles. This paper considered the role of patents, duties, excise, regulations and guilds on the availability and manufacture of textile products. Finally, Maj Ringgaard (Centre for Textile Research) spoke about Framing Early Modern Knitting. This paper considered the role of innovation in the development of knitting. Interestingly, the earliest extant examples of kitting appear to be from as early as the 1150s, and the method was disseminated via the Arabs, through Spain.
The second session was on Reputation. This section focussed on France during the early modern period. The first paper, by Lesley Milliner (V&A), was called Making a Reputation: Merchants and Designers in the Lyon Silk Industry 1660-1789. This paper focused on the importance of good reputation for silk merchants, and considered how that reputation was gained through maintaining trust and confidence through benign and adverse economic conditions. This was followed by All that Glitters: Merchandising Silver and Gold Silk Brocades in Paris at the end of the Seventeenth Century, presented by Corinne Thepaut-Cabasset, which looked at how fashionable fabrics were advertised and sold. The final paper of the day was entitled Selling Textiles Under Revolution: Economy and Politics in Paris 1790-1795. This paper, presented by Natacha Coquery (Lyon) explored how the retail of textiles was influenced by the revolution, and how traders coped with and adapted to the new political conditions.
Overall it was a fantastic day, that really made me question how I approach the study of textiles.