Early Modern Dress & Textile Research Network spacer image

Early Modern Dress and Textiles - A Research Network


The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) has funded a two-year investigation into Early Modern European Dress and Textiles. The topic was chosen because of dress studies' increasing importance as a scholarly discipline and its role in understanding the past. The Early Modern Dress and Textiles Network finished its work in Spring 2009, but this website will continue to be updated, and our virtual discussion list remains active.

In Early Modern Europe, what you wore was supposed to define who you were. Identities (gender, social, geographic) were meant to be clearly displayed on the body from the hat or kerchief on the head to the stockings and shoes on the feet. Much of this was made from expensive textiles and the investment in clothing at all levels of society was enormous, generating a constant concern to monitor and regulate this form of display.
An increasing number of scholars in different disciplines are now turning to dress and textiles and their histories in order to better understand the multiplicity of meanings that they offered in different parts of Europe between 1500 and 1800. Their study often involves archival work and literary analysis. At the same time those involved in preserving and displaying these items, and those concerned with reconstructing dress (often for theatrical purposes) have developed a much deeper understanding of the material qualities of Early Modern dress and textiles- what they were made from and how. This network has brought these researchers, who often work in very diverse settings and with very different sources together over a two-year period in order to address a series of common questions.


  • To bring together scholars and practitioners working with early modern dress and textiles in different disciplines and settings to identify common areas of understanding and to develop new research tools
  • To debate common practical and theoretical problems concerning early modern dress and textiles
  • To pool data, bibliography and glossaries for web dissemination
  • To establish a virtual discussion group for continued discussion and debate.


Network workshops are restricted to project members but a final conference, which took place at the Victoria and Albert Museum, was open to the public. A full report of this event can be found under Project Events.

The virtual discussion list is open to all. If you would like to join please send the Network Facilitator an e-mail. This will also allow non-network members a chance to ask questions of the group, propose additional bibliographic or visual material for the website and offer glossary definitions and problems.

Site maintained by Madeline Dewhurst.


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