ERC Consolidator Grant for my new research project

Dear readers of Global encounters Blog,

I have been very silent recently, but I have some very good news! My exploration towards experimental ‘hands-on’ methods in dress, fashion and textile history will continue, as I received last month a major 2-million euro grant for my new project “Refashioning the Renaissance: Popular groups, Fashion and the Material and Cultural Significance of Clothing in Europe, 1550-1650” from European Research Council. For details of the new project, please see the press release below:


Professor Paula Hohti receives two million euros of ERC funding for research into renaissance fashion and culture


Experimental processing of materials from fashion history opens up new interpretations of daily life in bygone times.

Aalto University Professor Paula Hohti has been awarded a 2 million euro ERC Consolidator Grant by the European Research Council (ERC). The five-year project, entitled Re-fashioning the Renaissance: Popular Groups, Fashion and the Material and Cultural Significance of Clothing in Europe, 1550-1650, will investigate the meaning and spread of western fashion in 17th century Europe.

Ms Hohti is making a significant step forward for science in the study of fashion, culture and history. In this experimental research, the sense of touch will also be brought into play.

‘We will develop hand-on methods in which we will work in many different ways with the textile samples’. Using manuals preserved from the 16th century, we have access to the textile manufacturing recipes of that time and we can reconstruct them now and see, for example, what the weaving of the fabric meant in practice,’ explains Professor Hohti.

Using up-to-date techniques, we can also experiment with new methods and reconstruct poor-quality articles of clothing. A 3D camera will assist in the modelling process and using 3D printing we can produce woven fabrics and clothing. Fibre and colour analyses reveal details of the living environments in which articles of clothing were used. The intention is that the researchers will also grow flax in their own greenhouse facilities.

Tacit knowledge about the lives of the lower classes

The spread of western fashion in the 16th century was aided by the growth of cities, new manufacturing techniques and the development of printing technology. Fashion began to spread into the life of the average citizen as new and cheaper fabrics became available.

Rather than the resplendent clothing of the rich, Ms Hohti is interested in the lives of the working classes.

‘We will focus on the spread of textiles and fashion among barbers, tailors and shoemakers in Italy and Scandinavia during the period 1550–1650. There is much tacit knowledge in the articles of clothing. For example, a refined fabric produced by a poor family can tell of things not found in the history books’.

Ms Hohti is looking forward with excitement to getting access to a significant textile and clothing collection discovered at a metro construction site in Copenhagen. The discovery is like a fashion history researcher’s dream: a large quantity of wigs, shoes, hats, socks and other articles of clothing used by the people from the 17th century onwards.

The ERC will be funding the ground-breaking cutting-edge research, and the project, due to begin in April, will be a continuation of Ms Hohti’s more than ten years of international research work.

‘This funding makes possible everything that a researcher could dream of. I will have a five-strong paid research team in which each person can focus on their specialist area. We will also get to be trained in historical craft skills such as dyeing methods and linen weaving’.”

Picture: Lasse Lecklin, Text: Marjukka Puolakka, created by Saara Koskinen, Aalto University, School of Arts, Design and Architecture, 2.2. 2017.


Call for papers: Global Consumption in European Cities (1500–1850)

CALL FOR PAPERS: Global Consumption in European Cities (1500–1850)

EAUH (European Association for Urban History), 13th International Conference on Urban History, Helsinki/Finland, August 24-27, 2016

Coat-detailCoat, Netherlands, mid-18th century Textile: India. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Isabel Shults Fund, 2012

Over the last three decades, consumption has become a major topic of scholarly investigation. Both within the social sciences and humanities, it is a booming field. Historically, much light has been shed on the eighteenth century as a period of a ‘consumer revolution’ or a ‘birth of a consumer society’, as people began to accumulate more and more consumer goods and personal possessions. In discussing these changes, scholars have highlighted the role that global goods (cotton textiles, cocoa, tea, tobacco, indigo, gum arabic, etc), and the growing consumer demand for them, played in spurring these changes.

As stimulating as this research has been, most of it has been confined to developments in Colonial America, England, France, and the Low Countries. Within Europe, these studies have often concentrated on metropolises such as London, Paris, or Amsterdam – cities at the forefront of these changes. How, when, and whether similar developments played out in other European, or global, urban communities remains under researched. Our goal with this session is to explore changes in consumption practices and the development of consumer societies in other European cities. With such an approach, we hope to cast these developments in a more holistic light, and bring a pan-European focus to the idea of an eighteenth-century consumer revolution.

In particular, we are interested in themes and questions such as:

• Consumption patterns in Southern, Central, Northern, or Eastern European cities. Which elements of a ‘consumer society’ can be detected in these regions? Did changes in consumption patterns occur, and if so, when? What were people consuming? Which ‘global’ goods found resonance in these cities? How wide-spread through society were these changing consumption patterns?

• Comparative work between European cities. What kind of comparisons in consumption patterns can be drawn between Western European cities and Southern, Central, Northern, or Eastern European cities? Temporally how did consumption patterns vary between other European urban communities?

• Broader issues surrounding consumption. What role did urban areas play in these changes? What role did laws (eg. sumptuary legislation) play in changing consumption patterns? How are changes to consumption related to broader social, legal, economic, and political developments?

Session organisers:
John Jordan, University of Bern, Switzerland
Paula Hohti, Aalto University of Art and Design, Finland
Jutta Wimmler, European-University Viadrina, Germany

To send your abstract, please register at

New job!

My two-year Marie Curie research fellowship at the Centre for Textile Research in Copenhagen ended at the end of February, and I am really happy to tell you that I will continue my work as the Professor of Art and Culture History at Aalto University, School of Art, Design and Architecture, in Helsinki, from 1 August onwards!

Getting a permanent job in academia these days is a tough task, especially for international academics such as myself and my fellow researchers at the CTR who have been moving extensively from one international institute to another. So once the news of my new job arrived late on a Monday afternoon just five days before my fellowship ended, my collegues took the sparkling wine out!

Celebrations at CTR

My time in Copenhagen has been incredibly rich and varied. In addition to new research perespectives that I have been able to develop during my research fellowship, I have fully enjoyed my life and experiences in the small but buzzling city of Copenhagen. I have learned a lot about the Danish culture and language, enjoyed stunnigy beautiful city gardens and sea views, and explored so many fascinating cultural sites and great restaurants. I am so grateful that I got to share these experiences with so many wonderful people. I am above all eternally grateful for my fellow researchers Miguel, Salvatore, Berit, Matteo, Flavia, Romina, Malgorzata and Giovanni, as well as all CTR staff, and my daughter Venla and my dear Birger, for making these experiences so special. Here are just some of those precious memories.

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Experimental Archaeology and Early Modern History


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My research fellowship at the Centre for Textile research has involved extensive training in hands-on work on historical textiles and clothing.  I have taken a number of courses, learning how historical textiles were actually made and dyed, and what kind of stages were involved in the processes of production in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. You can read about many of them in this blog.

Picture jpgThis approach has provided me with new experiences and perspectives to dress and textile research. However, at the same time, it has left me somewhat puzzled with the question of what does it actually mean, methodologically, for an early modern historian such as myself to integrate these experiments in my research?

This question inspired me together with my colleague, the archaeologist Eva Andersson Strand, to organise a workshop on experimental archaeology and early modern history, and to investigate how early modern history could benefit from experiments as part of the academic historical textile research.

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As experimental archaeology is a well-known method in prehistory archaeology, we first looked at some of the experiments that Eva and her team members have done, both as part of their research on the Viking Age settlements as well as in connection with her research on textile tools in the Mediterranean area in the 3rd and 2nd millennia BC. Together with her we learned what historical tools can tell us about the textile production and about the society. Eva’s team, for example, has recorded all the textile tools (spindles, whorls, loom weights) from several archaeological sites in the Mediterranean area. This information has not only allowed the team to evaluate the extent of textile production in the area in the 3rd and 2nd millenia BC, but the tests that they carried out, using reconstructed tools, also enabled the team to estimate what types of fibre and textiles might have produced in the area.

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We were then given a detailed description of the experiments the National Museum’s conservator Maj Ringgaard made as part of here Ph.D., investigating how different types of dyestuffs and mordants impacted on the preservation of the colour and fibre in historical textiles, such as the beautiful knitted stocking below right. Her tests of colour samples that were covered in soil and put away for months demonstrated not only that some dyestuffs, such as madder, helped to preserve the textiles, but she also found out that some dyes, including cochineal and madder, were able to migrate from one textile sample to another. This is important information to consider, especially when one uses dye analysis as a part of the historical inquiry.

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We ended the day with Charlotte Rimstad’s and Camilla Luise Dahl’s presentation of a 17th-century silk cap, constructed of five layers of silk and cardboard (used to stiffen the cap), discussing the possible benefits of the reconstruction of the coif.

As I am an art historian, I wanted to include the pictorial images in our investigation. Before closing the workshop, we looked at some beautiful images of past textile tools and techniques and delighted in the discoveries that we noticed in the small details of the pictures. In the painting below left (Spanish, c.1460), for example, Mary is knitting a sock from bottom up using, unusually, five needles. On the right (Slovenia, c. 1504), Mary is setting up a loom, and she is looking at a pattern book which is placed on the side table!

3 Madonna knitting spanish 4 Mary at the loom, from a fresco at the Church of St. Primus and Felicianus, Slovenia, 1504

This workshop was so exciting that we decided to continue the examination with an experience research workshop, organised in April. This, however, raised the crucial question of what is the difference between experience research and experimental research? The issue is hotly debated in archaeology, but generally we can say that experience research refers to the reconstruction an experience that is related to the making, using, seeing, displaying etc. of textiles, clothing or other objects, whereas experimental archaeology is a method with a set of clearly defined questions and aims in order to gain knowledge of, for example, past textile production and production methods.

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Teaching Dress and Fashion in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1650, in Copenhagen


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As part of my Marie Curie research fellowship at the Centre for Textile Research, I created a 15-week course on early modern dress and fashion for MA- and BA-level students at the University of Copenhagen. The goal of the course, taught in English, was to provide the students not only with new knowledge about historical dress, but also about how historical knowledge is being created in different academic fields. The range of topics were explored from various points of view, including archaeology, art and cultural history, social and economic history and museum conservation. This way, the course aimed at providing the students with an interdisciplinary ‘tool kit’ to study the history dress, textiles and fashion. Here we are, at the start of the course in August.


We started the course by looking at historical representations of dress, discussing to what extent garments might be idealised in visual images. We then moved on to discuss the social and cultural meanings of dress in Early Modern Europe, when I together with my colleague, the cultural historian and curator Mikkel Venborg Pedersen from the National Musuem of Denmark, discussed issues of status, identity and dress both among the elites as well as among popular segments of society.

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The social and cultural analysis of dress was followed by an examination of objects themselves. Two lectures, given by archaeologists Charlotte Rimstad and Vivi Lena Andersen, taught the students how real surviving 17th-century dress items, such as shoes, hats and gloves, excavated from Copenhagen moats, can be studied and used to understand early modern dress. Below, is an example of a surviving 17th-century shoe, as well as Vivi Lena with the students, creating a future ‘Shoe-exhibition’ with the students. Charlotte also brought her microscope, allowing the students to learn about the structures of the textiles that the clothing was made of. The historian Camilla Luise Dahl, then, in the next class, read probate inventories with the students, demonstrating how similar items were described in 17th-century archival records from Copenhagen.

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The second part of the course focused on new tehcnologies, novel fashion products and fashion dissemination in the early modern period. I had invited the conservator Maj Ringgaard from the National Museum to teach the students how knitting developed in the course of the 15th- and 16th-centuries, and created a great fashion and desire for fine stockings. Below, you can see some visual and material evidence of the early dissemination of this craft; a pair of early hand-knitted socks (Deutches Strumpf Museum) from the late 16th- or early 17th-century, and a depiction of Madonna engaged with knitting, by Bertram of Minden, 1400-10.


Maj had also brought some samples of lace and super fine needles that were required to produce the delicate lace for the students to examine.

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Lace and knitted stockings can frequently be seen also in late 16th- and early 17th-century portraits, such as below. Stockings and lace, however, were not the only fashion novelty that spread with an increasing speed in Europe. The 16th-century was a period of a wide circulation of new fashion innovations which, popularised by Spanish and French courts and promoted by flourishing international cloth and clothing trade, introduced new concepts into the traditional, local ways of dressing. Together with my students, we learned and studied how fashions disseminated and international dress fashions spread in Early Modern Europe. Below, the early seventeenth century portraits show two figures dressed in their best, the Earl Richard Sackville, in 1613, and Isabella Clara Eugenia, regent of the Netherlands, 1609.


The third part of the course moved the discussion from the social and cultural spehre to the economic context of dress, taking up issues of production and trade of textiles as well as acquisition and consumption of dress items. Karolina Hutkova, an economic historian from the Warwick University, connected to our CCCC programme here at Copenhagen, taught the student how valuabe silks were produced and traded on a global scale in the early modern period. We then continued with the students to think about the economic value of garments, discussing where and how textiles and garments could be bought, how accessible they were to the people from the lower social orders, how clohting could function as an economic ‘currency’, and what consumption of clothing means. Below is a representation of a 15th-century Bolognese market place, and an exotic, Ottoman cover fragment, made of linen with silk embroidery, 18th Century, today at The Textile Museum, Washington, D.C.

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The final part or the course placed the entire content in a theoretical framework, when we focused on the meanings of ‘fashion’ and tried to understand its systems both in the past and the present. We practised making arguments against Veblen’s and Simmel’s trickle-down emulation models, using, for example, the famous case of jeans to create bottom-up models of emulation. Did you know, by the way, that Denim, a mix of linen and cotton fabric originally associated with the working classes and the poor before it became the clothing for all and a fashion item on the catwalk, was invented already in the 17th-century? The painting on the left, originiating from the 17th century and painted by the ‘The Master of the Blue Jeans’, represent a poor boy in a worn out denim jacket!


Making connections between past and present, we also charted some of the interesting historical influences on contemporary fashion, as well as identifed key differences in the use and regulation of dress in the past and present. Here is one stunning example of the use of historical reference in contemporary fashion: the Dolce Gabbana FW13 Dress collection, with references to the Byzantine mosaics from Sicily.

Dolce GabbanaDolce-and-Gabbana-Fall-Winter-2014-Shoes-9

To finish the course, the students then spent a day at the National Museum, thinking about what constituted the museum’s textile and clothing collections, and how they were visually displayed in the exhibition space. The current exhibition on historical fur, called ‘Fur-An issue of Life and Death’, offered a great visual comparison for the students, by contrasting the rather traditional and conventional display of the Renaissance gallery with its glass vitrines and thematic arrangement of the objects, with an exhibition that made a conscious attempt to appeal to emotions as well as senses beyond vision, such as touching and smelling.

Fur exhibition

My course ended with students’ presentations of their exam topics. I was astonished how well my students were able to use primary sources, from written descriptions of dress and sumptuary laws to real surviving graments and printed and painted images of dress, as well as to apply approaches borrowed from archaeology, art history and economic, social and cultural history for their study. To me, it demonstrated that they had not only acquired new knowledge of early modern dress and it’s key concepts, but that they had really understood how historical knowledge is being created.

At the end of the final class, we decided to have some fun and organise a drawing competition. In pairs, my students were asked to design a fashionable garment in the 16th-century style and ‘sell’ it to the class, explaining how it was fashinoable and why it should win the competition. Here are my wonderful students, with their original  16th-century fashion designs! As a prize, the winning team got to pick some of these beautiful, Italian hand-painted loom weights.


I was given the permission from my students to put the fun drawings online. I wonder if you can you identify the famous historical figures in their designs?

Drawing competition 1 Drawing competition 4

Drawing competition 3 Drawing competition 2

For a more detailed description of the course, see


Dress and Fashion in Early Modern Europe (1500-1650), Centre for Textile Researce, Course Organiser and Tutor: Dr. Paula Hohti



11.9. 2014     Representations of Historical Dress, Paula Hohti (CTR)

18.9. 2014     Social and Cultural Meanings of Early Modern Dress, Paula Hohti (CTR)

25.9. 2014     Status and Dress in European Elite and Popular Culture, Dr. Mikkel Venborg Pedersen (National Museum)

2.10. 2014     Common People’s Clothing in Early Modern Copenhagen, Charlotte Rimstad (CTR, University of Copenhagen)

  1. 10. 2014 Innovation in steps. Shoes and shoemaking in Early Modern Europe, Vivi   Lena Andersen (University of Copenhagen, Museum of Copenhagen)

23.10. 2014 Stockings and knitted garments: New Textile Techniques and Novel Fashions in Early Modern Denmark, Dr. Maj Ringgaard (National Museum)

30.10. 2014   Fashion Dissemination and International dress fashions in Early Modern Europe, Paula Hohti (CTR)

  1. 11. 2014 Textiles and trade in the Early Modern Europe, Karolina Hutkova (University of Warwick)

13.11. 2014   Silks and silk thread production in the Early Modern Era, Karolina Hutkova (University of Warwick)

20.11. 2014   Shops and the markets for dress and textiles in Early Modern Scandinavia, Camilla Louise Dahl (CTR, University of Copenhagen)

25.11. 2014   Consumption, clothing and economic meanings of dress, Paula Hohti (CTR)

27.11. 2014 What is fashion? Theoretical approaches to historical dress, Paula Hohti (CTR)

  1. 12. 2014 Museum visit: Visual and material evidence of dress and textiles, Paula Hohti (CTR)

4.12. 2014   Student presentations and sum up, Paula Hohti (CTR)

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Experimental archaeology and historical dying at Lejre

A few weeks ago, our entire research centre travelled to Lejre, Denmark, to spend four days at the experimental archaeology reserach centre (Sagnlandet) to learn how textiles were prepared and dyed centuries ago. During the first two days, using real firewood to heat up the water, and locally grown plants such as woad and madder to dye our woollen samples, we were guided in this amazing coutryside setting by Fria Gemynthe through the processes of historical dying, creating some fantastic hues of yellows, oranges, browns, purples, blues, and greens. Just look at how beautifully the different of colours of naturally dyed wool, bathing in sunshine, have taken in the colours!


The first task of the dye-workshop was to set the fire going and heat up the water. We were lucky to have our Spanish colleague Miguel Angel in our team, because he absolutely loved chopping firewood!


When the water was heated up to 90 celcius degress, the undyed wool yarn samples could be placed in the in mordant bath. The purpose of the mordant (we used alum and cream of tartar) is both to bind the colours as well as to make them brighter.


While the wool was soaking in the mordant, we prepared the dyestuffs, using local plants: tansy for yellow, woad (or indigo) for blue, weld for green and madder for red. Some of the recipes required quite complex calcuations. Below our director Marie-Louise Nosch and our long-term reseracher Mary Harlow are working out the maths for a dye recipe, which was then written down on the black board.


Most of the plants that we used were grown in the experimental reserach centre’s own garden. Below is a bucketfull of locally grown dried tansy, that gave the wool a beautiful, warm yellow colour. We also tried weld, which normally gives a bright yellow colour, but our samples did not turn out well.


The red wool, died with madder, turned out absolutely stunning! However, since madder is not the most effective red colourant, our flax samples (seen in the pictures below) did not take in much colour.


This is the reason why in the past, the most expensive crimson reds in textiles and clothing were dyed using intensive and expensive dyestuff, the kermes and the cochineal (produced from the bodies and eggs of a small type of insect). For the high cost and prestige of the colour, these reds were reserved only for the most welathy and powerful members of society.

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We created blue using waod and indigo, and, by mixing woad with tansy and weld,  we got an amazing green that was almost greener than the nature itself!



By the end of the workshop, we had a great variety of colours, inlcuding orange (mix of madder and weld) and purple (mixing madder, cochineal and woad). We tied all the samples in neat bundles according to Fria’s instructions, and took them back to our study rooms to be used in our teahcing and research.

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What did this experience teach us? The re-creation of the dying process really made me understand the value of  colour in the Renaissance period, for the complex and expensive process of dying, from getting and fire wood and water to growing or obtaining the dyestyff, processing and preparing it, mordanting, and controling the fire and water tempreature all required a lot of time, technical knoweldge and patience.

Our research centre, the Centre for Textile Research, is specialised in the study of experimental archaeology. Scholars working especially on pre-historic textiles have used and developed a wide variety of hands-on techniques to make the invisible ancient textiles, crafts and production techniques visible. We are currently planning to set up a workhop, where we think about issues such as how a historian such as myself can benefit from experimental archaeology, and what is the difference bewteen experimental and experience archaeology.

More information about experimental archaeology and activites and reserach is available at CTR’s webpage at and and at Sagnlandet’s webpage at

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You can read more about our workhsop in Sagnlandet in Lejre from an article (‘Forskere går på eventyr i forhistorien) in Videnskap dk at


A Day Out in Copenhagen!

My daughter Venla visited me in Copenhagen last week. My current home is located right at the heart of the city in the beautiful area of Nyhavn, and she loves to hang out in the small shops, bars, cafe’s and restaurants that are lined up along my home street and the harbour around the corner.


But in the weekend, when I was off work, we wanted to explore some of Copenhagen’s cultural attractions, and try out some of the specialities within the city’s food scene. So on Saturday, just before the lunch hour, we took the Metro and decided to go at Torvehallerne, an urban market place near Nørreport train station, to try out Gorm’s gourmet pizza.


Having enjoyed two small, perfect small lunch-sized pizzas, we started making our way to Louisiana, Copenhagen’s leading museum of modern art, located about 40 minute train ride outside the city in Humlebæk.

Louisiana is a lively centre for all kinds of cultural acitivies. Besides exhibiting works from it’s extensive art collections, the museum organises several special art exhibitions every year, as well as a number cultural events such as lectures and workshops, most of which take place in the evenings and weekends.

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The current major exhibition consisted of works of Emil Nolde, the wonderful colourist who lived and worked in the ages of Impressionism, Symbolism  and Surrealism together with some of the most renowned Western modern artists such as Picassso, Gauguin and Van Gogh. Although Emil Nolde was German by birth, his career and works are of special interest to Danish for he had close connections  to Denmark.

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While some of Emil Nolde’s paintings that were exhibitied in Louisiana, such as his interpretations of religious subjects, were extremely peculiar, his use of his colour in the flower and landscape scenes was just breathtaking!

Emil Nolde paradise lost Emil Nolde Flower Garden 1919

Still feeling inspired by our experience at Louisiana, we travelled back to Copenhagen and headed to Christianshavn to have a drink. Christianshavn is a very nice neighbourhood to go out. We especially love the little restaurant by the canal, opposite of Christianhavn’s Metro station.


There are also some wonderful small restaurants in Christianshavn. I especially love the small restaurants at Sankt Annae Gade. This time, we had portions of fantastic mussels braised in creamy whitewine sauce at Cafe Wilder.

IMG_0302   Cafe Wilder

For those interested in new trends in the Danish culinary scene, I also recommend some of the new food districts in Copenhagen that I recently visited with the locals. One is the Copenhagen street food on the ‘Paper Island’, opposite of Nyhavn, an old warehouse containing stalls that offer street food from Mexican and Cuban dishes to gourmet hot dogs in an old paper factory setting for a very reasonable price. Another place for a day or an evening out is the old meatpacking district in Vesterbro in the west part of the town, a slightly more expensive and trendy area which, in addition to shops and art galleries, includes some of the most trendy settings to enjoy seafood and meat platters in restaurants such as Paté Paté or Fiskebaren. If you go to Paté Paté, try some of their liver dishes, they are absolutely delicious!

Pate pate 3 Copenhagen street food

Trade and Cultural Encounters in Early Modern Finland


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For many years I have studied sixteenth century documents in Italian archives, trying to find new information about the material culture and the everyday life of Renaissance Italians. I have been particularly interested in how the ordinary people such as barbers, bakers, shoemakers and innkeepers experienced and understood the Renaissance culture. The picture that has emerged from this research is fascinating. It demonstrates that Italian people from most social classes, including modest artisans, had potentially access to, and an interest in fashionable goods and cultural conventions of the period. One famous visual example is the portrait painting of the tailor, painted by Moroni around 1570, seen on the left. The tailor is depicted in a self-confident pose, wearing a fine pinked cream doublet and red hose and looking straight out to the spectator. Even peasants and vendors often decorated their best outfits with lace borders, ruffs and embroidered patterns. The decorative details on the right are taken from Vincenzo Campi’s painting of a Fruit vendor, 1570s.

Moroni tailor Campi fruit seller_1580_detailCampi Fruit seller_1580_detail3_ruff

A few years ago, however, I began to ask new questions. I was wondering especially how the European Renaissance influenced the culture in Scandinavia in the period, in particular in my own home country in Finland, which is seen on the right in Carta Marina, the first wallmap of Scandinavia by the Swedish historian Olaus Magnus in 1539 (below).

The earliest wallmap of Scandinavia, Carta marina, by Olaus Magnus. The caption reads : A Marine map and Description of the Northern Lands and of their Marvels, most carefully drawn up at Venice in the year 1539 through the generous assistance of the Most Honourable Lord Hieronymo Quirino.

The new curiosity towards the cultural past of my homeland was born out of an increasing awareness that generally us Finns -let alone the international community of scholars- do not seem to know much about the country’s 16th-century cultural past. We tend to assume that while the Italian wealthy princes and merchants celebrated the cultural achievements of their artists and humanists, we Finns were so cut off from the European civilization and their cultural codes that we ‘could not even use glass on our dining tables because there were too many drunk people mocking about”, as Olaus Magnus wrote in his ‘Histories of the Nordic People’.

But was Finland really entirely culturally isolated from the rest of the Europe in this period?

One way to approach the question is to look at international trade. In the early modern period, Finland was part of the Swedish Kingdom situated in Scandinavia along the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia (map, 1560). Despite the peripheral geographical location of the area in the North of Europe, the favourable position along the Hanseatic trade route provided the Swedish and Finnish noble families and merchants with great access for European culture and markets for luxury goods. It has been calculated by one scholar named Olle Ferm that by the end of the sixteenth century, up to 1/3 of the noble households’ goods in Sweden may have consisted of foreign imports.

Map of Sweden-Finalnd   Map of finland and Sweden

Most foreign trade was focused on textiles. Fabrics from diverse European geographical areas such as England, Flanders, Germany Spain and Italy were imported in the biggest trading ports of Turku, Vyborg and Helsinki.

The imported textiles also included luxury fabrics that were ordered by noble families for special occasions such as weddings. For example, one Carl Gustafson from the Finnish town of Turku ordered European luxury floral velvet, red satin, and silk veil worth a stunning sum of 649 daler for the wedding of his daughter Brita in 1591. However, due to the high cost of luxury fabrics, fine fabrics were rather rare in both Finland and Sweden. In 1559, for example, 38,5% of all goods that were imported in Sweden in this year consisted of textiles. 25,1% of this was broadcloth, 6,4% linen and coarse wool, and 4,3% silks and cloth of silver and gold.

How do we know all of this? It is because customs records have survived well for Finland in the sixteenth and early seventeenth century.  For example, for Turku they are available for  the years of 1556, 1559, 1576-78, 1581-85, 1591-94, 1601, 1606, 1611, 1613, 1616, 1617. Here are two surviving examples from Turku from 1556.

Turku customs records, 1556 (233b)

Although customs records cannot be seen as comprehensive sources of all imported textiles, because many families and traders bought goods directly from foreign merchants, they nonetheless provide extremely rich infromaton about the kind, quality, quantity, cost, origin and destination of the kinds of European fabrics that  were bought and used in Finland in the period.

Thanks to the extensive efforts of the Finnish national archive to make historical soruces available in digital form, these valuable documents can be found online (unfortunately only in Swedish!). To find them, go to the Finnish National Archive’s Digital Archive in or follow this link.


The Global Trade of Textiles and Clothing in the Early Modern Period: Exchange, Meaning and Materialities


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International PhD and Postdoctoral Workshop
The Global Trade of Textiles and Clothing in the Early Modern Period: Exchange, Meaning and Materialities
Place: Global History and Culture Centre, Department of History, University of Warwick, United Kingdom
Dates: Thursday 27 and Friday 28 November 2014

V&A Textile
Quilted chintz palampore, maker unknown, Coromandel Coast, India, about 1700-50, V&A

Organised by the CCCC – The Danish National Foundation’s Centre for Textile Research, University of Copenhagen and the Global History and Culture Centre, University of Warwick

Information: If you have any further questions, feel free to contact the organisers: Karolina Hutkova, Global History and Culture Centre, University of Warwick,; Paula Hohti, The Danish National Foundation’s Centre for Textile Research, University of Copenhagen,; Giorgio Riello, Global History and Culture Centre, University of Warwick,

In the early modern period the trade of textiles, dress and other fashionable materials reached a global scale. Cotton textiles were the backbone of the trade of the European East India Companies in Asia, but also between Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas. They followed the global success of the silk trade and the several attempts to transplant silk’s cultivation from China to southern Europe and then to Northern Europe and the Americas. Woollens became key to the Atlantic trade and linens structured long-distance trade within Europe, China and India. One should not forget the trade in mix fabrics, in beaver hats, lace, feathers and other decorative items as well as the exchange of ready-made garments, of types of fashionable garments, of designs, of raw materials such as dyes and fibres, and of technologies.
This workshop brings together PhD and Postdoctoral students to reflect on transnational, comparative and connective histories of the early modern exchange of textiles, dress and clothing. We encourage in particular the submission of papers exploring new topics and methodologies, ranging from the quantification of trade, to technological transfer, to the use of material culture methodologies in research.

To submit a proposal, please send a 200-word abstract and title of the proposed paper, together with a one page CV, to: closing date for proposals is 15 July 2014. Successful candidates will be notified by the 10 August 2014.

The cost of accommodation, lunches and dinners will be covered by the CTR and the GHCC. We are able to offer a small number of travel scholarships up to £75 (travel within Britain), £125 (travel within Europe) and £250 (travel from outside Europe). Please indicate in your email if you would like to be considered for a travel scholarship.


The materiality of textiles and clothing – CCCC workshop held at the CTR


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A few weeks ago we organised with our Ph.D. student Vivi Lena Andersen the second workshop associated with my early modern textile and clothing research programme, Costume, Clothing, Consumption and Culture (CCCC), run between the Centre for Textile Research and the National Museum of Denmark. The workshop was titled ‘The materiality of textiles and clothing – under the surface’. Together with Ph.D. students, museum curators, conservators and a large network of scholars from art, economic and cultural history and archaeology from the Centre for Textile Research, the National Museum and Designmuseum of Denmark, University of Helsinki, University of Delhi, University of Hertfordshire, and European University in Florence, we spent two days at looking and discussing textiles and objects in museum collections, conservation departments and archaeological study rooms. One of the aims was to think about how we can create meaningful multidisciplinary methods and approaches to the historical study of textiles, clothing and fashion. Our keynote speaker was Professor John Styles. Here we are!


We started the workshop at the National Museum in Copenhagen, where we looked at the Renaissance exhibition with the textile conservator Maj Ringgaard. Below, you can see two examples from the exhibition; a collection of tall knitted hats that were in fashion in Scandinavia in the early 17th-century, and a printed textile from the same period. These examples were very interesting from the point of view of materiality, since some of them imitated more expensive materials. The hat on the far left is made in imitation of fur, and the texilte on the right, found in one of the drawers of the exhibition room, is printed to imitate a precious Italian Renaissance velvet fabric.


We also had the unique opportunity to see ‘behind the scenes’ of the National Museum. As the conservator Maj Ringaard unwrapped the small packages in the museum’s storage room, one after another, we were presented with an incredible collection of 17th-century objects that have been excavated in Copenhagen, including beautifully conserved shoes and leather gloves.

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Some of the most amazing items were the 17th-century wigs that have survived up until our day. I think the archaeologists and conservators have done a pretty good job, first to identify them in the wet moat, then to prepare and repair them for the exhibition! On the right, you can see one of the wigs presented at the ‘The Past Beneath Us’ exhibition at the Museum of Copenhagen.


From the National Museum storage spaces, we continued to the Museum of Copenhagen, the home institution of Vivi Lena, who works as an archaeologist and a curator at the museum. Having looked at the exhibition, we were taken downstairs to the basement to see what historical clothing articles look like when they are just excavated. The archaeologists working here told us that all items need to be kept wet and cold -the same condition in which they were found- while they are prepared for study and storage, until they are moved to large freezers to wait for conservation. Just imagine what these leather shoes, gloves, purses, scarfs, sleeves and knitted hats may have looked like when they were used the last time in the 17th-century!


Since the collection includes a lot shoes, we had invited a shoemaker to show us how shoes were traditionally made, how long time it took to construct a pair of such shoes, and what stages were involved in their production. Here Kenneth Elsgaard is reconstructing a shoe and showing how a tarred and waxed thread of flax is prepared for sewing -with pigs bristles. He had been so inspired by 17th-century French fashion for shoes that he had also prepared a shoe with a red heel!


It was nice to see that, as we discovered during the presentation, the tools for making shoes had not really changed that much. But the process of making shoes in the traditional way was very time-consuming; according to the shoemaker, a pair of good quality shoes would take about three weeks to make. This would not have been an issue in the past when the worth of the shoe lied primarily in its material, but in today’s environment it means that it is practically impossible for any shoemaker to live on hand-made shoes.

Since we believe that things make sense when you make them, we continued with the hands-on sessions with Alice Dolan, a Ph.D. student working with John Styles in the ERC-funded project ‘Spinning in the Era of the Spinning Wheel’ at the University of Herfordshire. Alice presented her interesting experiment for growing flax, allowing us to really understand where the fibres came from. You can find more information about her experimental archaeology here on

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The next day was spent at Brede, in the conservation department of the National Museum. Look at the wonderful knitted items that were conserved there!

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The collections included many knitted stockings from the 17th-century. Some of them were more robust and made for warmth. The more precious ones were made from silk and included beautiful, decorative details.

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We also discovered some more hair accessories, such as braids made of human hair, and hair padding that could be used for lifting the hair. How were the braids used is not certain. Some of them, like the one in the middle, look like they might have been used as jewellery, or even as parts of a belt.

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We ended the workshop with John Styles brilliant talk, titled ‘What was cotton in eighteenth-century Britain?’ He took us through a technical analysis of some of his textile samples, and talked about why Europeans found it so difficult to make cotton fabrics in the 18th-century.

At the end of the two full days, having looked at hundreds of objects and raised a number of issues to do with materials, techniques and museum display, we sat down for a glass of wine and some smørrebrød, and discussed with Kirsten Toftegaard, the head curator of the Fashion and Textile department of the Danish Designmuseum, how we should define fashion.

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We all left thinking not just how differently archaeologists, economic historians and art historians sometimes migth use the terms of dress, fashion, costume and clothing, but also how the new answers that we generate in the meetings and at the Centre for Textile Research, using cross-disciplinary methods, generate new problems for historical research. This is what makes research so exciting!


Textile treasures from Copenhagen Metro excavations


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Textile historians and archaeologists in Copenhagen have a unique opportunity at present to extend their knowledge on early modern textiles, as archaeloists are excavating on construction sites at 22 locations spread throughout the city. These construction sites were set up a few years ago in order to build a new circuit Metro line in Copenhagen that will connect the centre of the city at Gammel Strand with Assistens Kirkegård in Nørrebro.

Picture excavations34nhavs

Although the building project is a pain for the city’s inhabitants and touritsts who still for several years have to juggle their ways around the sites that are placed in some of the largest and busiest squares of the town such as Rådhuspladsen and Kongens Nytorv (in picture above), it has made it possible for researchers to uncover new cultural layers of the city’s history and neighbourhood life. In the course of the excavations, archaeologists have discovered an extensive number of artefacts, including more than 2000 textile fragments from all kinds of clothing articles from the Renaissance period, such as trousers, hats, socks, gloves and jackets. These were discovered in a moat fill that dates back to the 1660s.

Two of our PhD students, Charlotte Rimstad and Vivi Lena Andersen, both archaelogists, are working on the excavated items. They told me that the excavated items are in superb condition because the wet soil of the moat provided excellent preservation conditions for organic material. Many of the finds have been taken to the Museum of Copenhagen for conservation and storage and some of these small treasures were exhibited in the museum’s exhibition  ‘The past beneath us’, opened in January 2013. Here Charlotte and Vivi are preparing some of the items for conservation.

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What makes the Metro excavation finds extremely interesting is that most of the excavated textiles and clohting articles belonged to the ordinary people, including artisans and labourers such as barbers, shoemakers, bakers, smiths and masons. This provides a rare opportunity for us to extend our knowledge on early modern Scandinavian clothing and consumer cultures also beoynd the wealthy elites. Here are just some examples of the excavated items, such as a knitted woollen stocking and a glove.

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The excavated items also included a number of fashion accessories such as wigs and no less than 6000 pairs of shoes. One of these is a heeled shoe with a ‘turnover tongue’, seen in the image on the left below. Similar shoes are found in a Norwegian painting from the period, as seen on the right. This Norwegian paintings also demonstrates that heeled shoes such as these were not only worn by women but also by men.

Fig. 8 Konserveret lædersko fra 1600-talletNorwegian painting

One interesting feature about the heels is the colour. As you can see in the detail on the left, they are painted red, perhaps in imitation of French fashion. On the right,  a pair of red heeled shoes is worn by the French king Louis XIV in his portrait painted in 1701. This is just one example of how fashion ideas started to spread with an increasing speed and in many variations around Europe at the time, also in the North.

norwegian painting detailRed heels

All excavated items are dark brown or black when they are found, but many of them were originally colourful pieces that were covered with expensive silks, velvets, brocades, cloth of gold or gilded leather. On the right you can see a pair of beautiful British silk shoes from the 1750-70, today at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

31. LæderskoShoes MET 1

More information about the Metro excavations and the research connected to the project can be found from the pages of :
Vivi Lena Andersen  
Charlotte Rimstad     
Museum of Copenhagen

If you are interested in early modern shoes, you can read more about their appearance, use and cost in the works of, for example, Giorgio Riello, Michelle O’Malley and June Swan.

Interwoven Globe textile exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum, New York

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Just a few weeks before Christmas I travelled to New York to see the major textile exhibition ‘The Interwoven Globe: The Worldwide Textile Trade, 1500-1800’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Having passed a number of breath taking skyscrapers, juggled my way through the buzzling New York city life, and walked through the Central Park dressed so beautifully in yellow Autumn colours at this time of the year, I arrived early on a Friday morning at the museum that is located on the 5th Avenue right next to the Central Park in the north part of Manhattan. This museum it particularly dear to me because, in addition to paintings and sculpture traditionally regarded as ‘high arts’, it includes a large collection of domestic and decorative arts from the Renaissance period.


This museum visit wasn’t one of the casual exhibition tours that I usually do in my work or spare time. Instead it offered me an opportunity to view this stunning exhibition with the people who created it, and participate in a workshop organised by the Textile Society of America downstairs at the Ratti Textile Research Centre -the research centre that takes care of the museum’s textile collections. This provided a special occasion to learn about the ideas that were behind the Interwoven Globe exhibition as well as to hear the amazing stories that were associated with some of the textiles in the museums’ storage space. In this picture below, we are about to start the museum tour with the curators of the ‘Interwoven Globe’, Amelia Peck, Melinda Watt, Amy Gobansky, Joyce Denney and Elena Phipps, and later we are looking at the textiles at the Ratti centre.

Curators at the METIMG_8374

Every exhibition tells a visual story. The Interwoven Globe was a story of early modern textile trade explored, unusually, from the point of view of design history. The significance of the exhibition was that it did not just highlight the role and importance of cotton, silk, wool and linen, dyeing, printing, weaving and embroidering in the history of our world, but it also emphasised the beauty and sophistication of these often overlooked objects. Doing so, it demonstrated that textiles, along with their complex designs and highly sophisticated methods of execution, can and should be viewed as ‘works of art’.

The exhibition focused on professional high-quality textile artefacts that were produced for the international market, including embroidered, woven, dyed and printed wool, silk and cotton textiles across cultures in Europe, the Americas, Asia and India in the period between 17th and 19th centuries. Juxtaposing these enormous works of textile, the exhibition explored not just how objects and materials were traded along the oceanic trade routes but it also examined how tastes and cultural ideas associated with textiles travelled around the globe, influencing the design, production and consumption of these masterpieces.

Global knowledge of design was immediately visible in the exhibited textiles. In the first room of the exhibition, we were introduced to this fascinating 17th-century embroidered and painted textile, showing the Abduction of Helen. Although the theme is very Western, it was produced in China and incorporated Asian motifs: instead of the usual grapes found in Western versions, one of the female figures on the right  holds a bunch of lychee fruits!

The Abduction of Helen, from a Set of The Story of Troy

Abduction of Helen, detail

The increasing global trade and the information about other cultures and their designs stimulated interest for the ‘exotic’ in Europe. We learned that in the period between 17th and 19th centuries, Chinese and Indians produced a wide variety of novel culturally hybrid designs, mixing Western symbols and images with Asian motifs, such as flowers and mythological creatures from Indian or Chinese legends. Producers often created the textiles to the customers’ tastes. This Chinese woven silk produced for the Iberian market, for example, incorporates in the design crowned double-headed eagles, often symbolic of the Habsburg rulers of Spain and Portugal.

s Textile with Crowned Double-Headed Eagles

‘Exotic’ products appealed in the West not just for their imagery, but also because of the quality of their materials and techniques. Look at the superb quality of this 17th silk and cotton quilt!

Large woven silks and embroideries were hugely expensive and, therefore, suitable status symbols for Western consumers. Europeans, however, were not just fascinated by the most expensive textiles, but they also valued colourful Indian hand painted or printed cottons from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. These  appealed for their design but also because they were light, washable and, in most part, reasonably affordable. Here is an image of 18th century Indian Chintz.

Personally, this exhibition demonstrated to me the relevance of visualising the past in our understanding of the complexities of contemporary and earlier European fashion cultures. Walking back to my hotel from the museum along the Madison Avenue, I stopped at designer shop windows to admire contemporary textiles that all still seemed to share traces of the global history that I had just witnessed. It made me think of the extent to which motifs today, originally exotic, have become so familiar to us and blended in our cultural language that we no longer recognise many of them as ‘foreign’.


For the exhibition and pciture credits see

For Textile Society of America go to


Dress and textile historian’s sources!


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Last year, during the process of writing up a complex EU reserch project proposal, I was adviced by a Dutch specialist to visualize the list of my sources. She suggested I make this pinboard! The board includes all the main types of historical that I use for my present study, with one specific example from each source category.

Historian's sources!

Personally, I don’t think it was a very useful piece of advice, but it looks nice! And perhaps there is a point: a table with visual images might make the types of sources that historians use more understandable and accessible to those who are not that familiar with historical research. I hope you find it useful!


Course on historical weaving at Fondazione Lisio in Florence!


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Look at this amazing late 15th-century Venetian brocaded velvet, today at Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York! The intensity of the colour, the great care taken for executing the decorative ‘pomegranate’ pattern, and the shiny reflecting surface of the cut silk pile of this precious hand-woven fabric is something that we no longer see in contemporary textile production.


In order to understand how historical patterned silks such as this were made and what stages were involved in their production, I decided to contact the Fondazione Arte della Seta Lisio in Florence, an institute dedicated to preserving historical textiels and weaving techniques. The picture below shows one of the stunning reproductions that was created by the professional weavers at Lisio (, as well as the enormous Jacquard looms on whcih the fabrics were created, dating back to the early 19th-century.


The professional weavers of the institute not only knew how to weave on these looms but they also knew how to set them up according to the design. This involved tying both the ground and pattern warp threads as well as programming the ‘Jacquard device’ that created the pattern, by organising the punched cards in a particular order according to the design. Imagine how much knowledge and patience is reuqired for the preparation of warp threads! This lady working on one of the looms when I arrived, seen on the left, told me that it takes two whole working days for two people to tie the warps.


As training in practical work on textiles in an essential part of my Marie Curie research fellowship, I decided to negotiate a research period at the institute, focusing on historical textile techniques. During the five days that I spent in the institute, I was instructed on historical textile technologies by two specialists, Julie Holyoke and Eva Basile. Under their guidance, I learned the basics about how to weave, draw and analyse textile structures, how the warps are tied according to the design, and how to recognise different weave structures in surviving historical fabrics.

I also had the chance to observe how these beautiful brocades and patterned velvets were made before my eyes by the professional weavers of the institute. Spending time just by looking made me really understand not just how much technical knolwedge was required for translating a design onto the loom but also how much time it took to produce patterned silks. Even with a full day’s work, a weaver would not produce more that the maximum of about 60 cm of velvet per day.


Since the Jacquard looms, such as those at Lisio, were not introduced in textile production until the late 18th-cetury, I found my thoughts going back to the 16th-century -my own area of specialization- and thinking how different was the production of fabrics before the invention of the Jacquard loom. Not much different, I was told. Patterned damasks, velvets and brocades in the 16th- and 17th-centuries were woven on a draw loom. Like the Jaquard loom, it was based on a mechanism that operated two separate systems of harness, one of which controlled the ground warp threads, the other the pattner warps. But the difference is that, whereas the harness that creates the pattern on the Jacquard loom is controlled by punched cards (a kind of early form of computerised version), the patterning device in the case of draw loom was operated by the ‘draw boy’.


I left the course with a great appreciation for the historical textiles and their creators and could not help wondering would it be possible to translate some of this quality and beauty in today’s textile production? Could a greater knolwedge and appreciation of traditional textile techniques change our attitudes to consumption? Luckily, my Ph.D. student Tuulia Lampinen, a textile designer, is working on the subject. She is exploring some ways in which some of the technques could be translated into today’s designer practice and textile tehcnology.

After long days at the Lisio, I rested my mind, looking around at the beautiful sites of Florence and, of course, eating fabulous dinners at the small taverns in the neighbourhood I used live, near the Santo Spirito.

Santo spiritoFood

One morning, waiting for the bus to go the Lisio, I also came across this unusual site: a pair of Renasisacne statues blocking the whole street as they were exiting the Palazzo Medici.


For the institute of Lisio and its courses, go to:




Finishing the Fashioning the Early Modern Europe -project


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In late Spring 2013, our European collaborative reserach project Fashioning the Early Modern: Creativity and Innovation in Europe, 1500-1800, led by my long term teacher and supervisor and subsequently a colleague, Prof. Evelyn Welch, came to an end. During the three years that constituted the life span of this 1-million euro HERA-funded project, I had the chance to explore issues of creativity and fashion innovation in early modern Europe with some of the most inspiring and intellectualy stimulating scholars of early modern Europe from museums and academic institutions in Britain, Italy, Denmark, Sweden and Finland.

We started the project in 2010 with the simple question of how and why did certain fashionable goods such as wigs, new textiles, ribbons, ruffs and lace become successful in early mod­ern Europe while others failed. What appeared to be a relatively straight forward question evoleved in the following three years into a complex academic debate and discussion over creativity and innovation that lay behind the creation and spread of fashionable goods in early modern Europe. Together with our invited guests, colleagues and advisors, including academics, museum conservatos, fashion designers, and students of history and fashion, we met in workshops and conferences in Helsinki, Copenhagen, London and Stockholm to discuss and think about the implications of issues such as reputation and branding, the disseminatin of fashion across social and geographic borders, and the circulation of fashion ideas through print. The pictures below represent some of the succesful early modern fashion innovations that we discussed in our meeting: the ruff, the wig and the corset.


While the generous European funding permitted us to invite expert speakers such as Dr. Marta Ajmar, Prof. John Styles and Prof. Giorgio Riello into our events, allowing us to share academic papers and develop our discussion within the broader academic network, we also felt that looking at the actual historical textiles and clothing articles -including touching, feeling and smelling-  should be an important part of the investigation and academic debate. Consequently, we were introduced to the world of textiles and museum collections by knowledgeable curators and conservators of the Riksmuseum and Royal Armoury in Stockholm, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, the National Museum and Open Air Museum Aarhus, Demark, and the Porvoo Museum in Finland, who generously gave their time to show us the collections, inlcuding some of the trasured textile remainings that were too fragile to display in the exhibition space.


These are some of the wonderful, mainly 17th- and 18th- century textiles and clothing artefacts that we saw at the National Museum and Aarhus Museum in Denmark and Porvoo Museum in Finland:Image

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Sometimes even snow could not disable our enthusiasm to visit the local museums. Here we are, in late March 2011, trying to get to the Open Air Museum in Provoo, Helsinki, with the ground being covered with in at least 50 cm of snow!

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One of the interesting aspects of the project was our aim to focus not just on historical issues, but also to develop new ways of understanding past fashion concepts in the context of contempoary ideas and practice. During our Helsinki workshop, we were given the possibilty to think about issues of reputation and branding in the context of fashion industry and contemporary design practice, when we visited the Mariemkko headquarters in Finland. Interestingly, Marimekko is one of the few companies that still hasn’t moved it’s fabric production entirely outside Europe. As we discovered during our visit, most of the fabrics, some of which see today on tables and furnishings throughout Europe such as in the picture of a cafe in front of Palazzo Pitti in Florence, are printed in the Marimekko premises in Helsinki (see picture on the left).


In our last workshop, held in Copenhagen, we continued to focus on the connections between past and present, moving the discussion to the display of historical ideas in the museum museum context. We had the chance to meet three Danish fashion designers -Nikoline Liv Andersen, Laura Baruël and Anne Damgaard- who were commissioned to create design ‘interventions’ as part of the Danish designmuseums’ Rococo Mania exhibition, curated by Kirsten Toftegaard. We sat down in groups for one hour with each designer to discuss and debate their design process and outcomes. You can read Peter McNeil’s refelctions on the meeting here:


A view to “Rokoko-mania” at Designmuseum Danmark, 2012, with items inspired by eighteenth-century rococo themes: eighteenth-century styles behind glass, twenty-first century styles on rotating mannequins.

Socialising and good food were of course important parts of our meetings! This picture was taken in Aarhus, during our traditional Danish meal of a cold platter of cheese and fish and a traditional stew served with swede.


The project included six principal investigators. In addition to myself, these included Prof. Evleyn Welch (King’s College London), Prof. Peter McNeil (Centre for Fashion Studies, Stockholm), Dr. Leslie Miller (Victoria & Albert Museum, London), Prof. Marie-Louise Nosch (Centre for Textile Research, Copenhagen) and Dr. Maj Ringgaard. We also had three great post-docs working with us for almost the entire duration of the project , Dr. Patrik Steorn (Centre for Fashion Studies), Dr. Corinne Thépaut-Cabasset (Victoria and Albert Museum), and Dr. Maj Ringaard (Natioanl Museum), as well as a number of museum partners from Britain, Denmark and Sweden. Here we are -some of us- with our advisers Girogio Riello and John Styles, in our final meeting at the the Chicheley Hall. This beuatiful mansion situated amidst the amazing English landscape was the perfect site to spend a few days together and draw our results and final conclusions together.

Hera project

Keep looking for our book, Fashioning the Early Modern: Creativity and Innovation in Europe, edited by E. Welch and published by Pasold / OUP. It should be out in the Spring 2014!


More information on the project can be found in our project website:

Project management course for researchers



“Setting the Objectives, Stakeholder management, Evaluation, Milestone planning, Estimation, Network planning and slack, Risk management, Communication, Project Organisation, The project manager’s roles, Project execution plan…” Does this sound like the basic kind of consult stuff?

To my big surprise, this intensive 3-day project management course for researchers, organised by Implement Consulting group in June 2013, was in fact very good. Held for approximately 20 reserach leaders within the University of Copenhagen in one of the Radisson SAS hotel near Copenhagen’s airport, it covered a whole range of topics and techniques that are required for designing and running a succeful project.

What made the course particularly helpful is that we were really given time to explore and practise each topic by doing various exercises and tasks. One of the major tasks was to design and orgnanise ‘Molly’s birthday party’, with all different managing stages involved. Here are some of the ‘Milestones’ that were involved in her party:


Although the tasks may sound light and fun, each one of them in fact required a lot of creativity as well as the ability to apply the whole range of tools that we had learned, such as communication, problem solving and organisation skills, and the ability to work as a team. And by the end of the course, we had a lot of tools to remember… the walls around the room were totally covered with flap-board sheets, displaying the topics we had dealt with!


One of the most enjoable tasks was on our final day, when we were divided in groups of four to design and build a paper bridge between two chairs, using just 30 A4 sheets of paper, two rolls of cellutape and one pair of scissors. What made it challenging was not only that the bridge had to be designed and built in 1,5 hours, but it also had to be strong enough to support a toy-truck loaded with weights up to 10kg!

And guess how we manage to build one of the strongest bridges in the class? By applying textile-knowledge! We made a paper ‘mattress’, fillied with a woven-kind of structure that was created from interlacing paper sticks that we had made by rolling sheets of paper very tightly. We finished our bridge in the last seconds but it was so strong that it could have easily carried the truck of 10kg! An impressed American military scientist told me after the exercise that from now on he will ‘never underestimate a basket maker’.

I was so excited after the task that I forgot to take a picture, but I can assure you that our bridge looked great!

For Implement Consuting you can visit

Visiting the Cathedral Museum of Turku in Finland!


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In May 2013, I travelled with my Ph.D. student Tuulia Lampinen to the city of Turku in Finland, to visit the historical textiles and clothing collections of the Cathedral Museum. This collection is special, because it is one of the few places in Finland to find surviving historical clothing artefacts dating back to the early 17th-century. After a friendly chat with the kind lady at the entrance of this beautiful Medieval church, we were given access to the narrow staircase that led us upstairs to the museums’ storerooms.

Up to the storerooms Velvet, 17th century

The knowledge that I had gained a few weeks before at the Intensive textile course in Leiden was immediately put to test, as we started opening the clothing and textile drawers to discover a whole range of silk, linen and woollen clothing and dress accessories from the 17th-century. The labelling was old and the information about the textiles and the origin of the clohting was imprecise. Luckily, my brilliant student Tuulia is a textile designer and a real expert on fabrics. Together, we were able to examine in detail the precious fragile artefacts that had survived for centuries, through several wars, famines and plague outbreaks!

The collections inlcuded a whole range of clothing items, from skirts and trousers to caps, linen scarves, knitted stockings and fans, in varying quality and conditions. Most of the clothing was recovered from tobms. This plain, relatively basic white taffeta dress was discovered in the tomb of Elisabeth Buren (d. 1668).

White taffeta dress, 1667Detail

Some of the dresses were striped. According to the information, this late 17th-century dress once belonged to one of the women of the Wittfoth family, a trading family from Turku engaged, for example, in salt trade.

17th century burial dressdetail

Some of the dresses were emboridered or decorated with borders, ribbons, or braid,  made from silks and metal thread. Look at these amazing decorative details!

Ribbon, 17th century dress, TurkuDetail, women's cap, 17th century Turkudetail, 17th-century child's burial dressIMG_6844

The collecitons also included a variety of dress accessories, such as knitted silk stockings and women’s caps. While most of the actual clothing was made from white or brown fabric, the caps included a whole range of colours, from reds and blues to yellows and gold. The reason is associated with cost. Deep colours were expensive to produce in this period and small caps, obviously, required a much smaller quantities of silk!

Women's caps, 17th century TurkuKnitted silk stockings, 17th century Turku

The collections also included some delicate linen scarfs, some with beautiful lace borders!

Linen scarf, 17th century, Turku17th-century lace border, Turku

Once we had examined the storerooms, we made our way back downstairs, to the museums’ exhibition space to see the velvet chasubles that were made from fabrics dating back to the 14th- and 15th-centuries. Did you know that chasubles in this period were made from second-hand clothes? As the fashions changed, the wealthiest families tended to leave their outdated garments to the Church. Thanks to this practice, many valuable velvet and silk fabrics have been preserved up to our day. Look at these deep, red amazing colours of the centuries old velvets!

Chasubles, Turku Cathedral Museum

I was excited to see all these beautiful items but left the colletions wondering what stories were associated with these clothes and textiles. As I sat on the stairs afterwards with a cup of coffee in my hand, I though to myself, who were these families? How did the clothes end up in this museum? Where were the fabrics made and who sew up the clothing? I really must go the archives to find out more information! If I am lucky, some of the family account books or household inventories survive!

At the Cathedral stepsTurku Cathedral, Finland

We ended the day with a late lunch-buffet and a peaceful walk along the river Aura in a sunny but slightly crispy Spring weather. We found these trees on the banks of the river, dressed in colourful patches of wool, celebrating the rich craft culture of the city. These trees really made me smile!

by the river Aura, 2013IMG_6787

Intensive textile course at the TRC, Leiden


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In May 2013, I got the opportunity to participate in a five-day intensive textile course, organised by Textile Research Centre in Leiden (TRC), Netherlands. This was the first  step of my Marie-Curie scholarship training plan, the goal being to familiarize myself with basic textile techniques and pracical skills in textiles.

TRC LeidenTRC Leiden

Upon arrival the eight of us who took part in the course, all of us from different countries, were taken through the exhibiton space showing colourful dress items from the mountains and deserts of Iran to the study room at the back of the premises. After a cup of tea, we were introduced to our insturctor, Dr. Gillian Vogelsang, a wonderful English woman who had moved to Leiden at a young age and subsequently established the Research Centre. Under her inspiring (yet uncompromising!) guidance, we learned all the basic steps that are associated with the processes of making a piece of cloth, from the raw fibres to the end product.

The course was intensive, indeed. We studied everyday from 9am until 5 pm, stopping just for a few breaks around the lunch hour and tea times. But this meant that during the five days we really covered the basics of fibre identification, spinning, dyeing, weaving, and decorative techniques including printing and embroidery, both in theory and practice.

We started the course by learning how to classify and identify various natural, mad-made and techno fibres. One of the methods of identification is testing how different fibres burn: what they smell like, how quickly the fibre lights up, and what the end product looks like. We also examined differences in fibres, using microscopes.

Textile course at TRC Leiden  Fibre identificatio using microscopes

We then made experiments on spinning and dyeing. Having prepared the raw sheep wool by combing and carding, we started twisting and spinning the wool to create thread and yarn. On the left below, our teacher Gillian is showing us how to use a basic spindle. I can tell you that spinning isn’t as easy as it looks! As you can see on the right, my home-spun yarn isn’t exactly perfect…

Spinning exerciseSpinning yarn

My working partner Judith, on the other hand, really got it. She got so excited about spinning that she took the spindle at home and knitted over the night a little baby sock of her self-made yarn! What a creative talent!

SpinningBaby sock made out of home-spun yarn

Having spent a fair deal of time in spinning, we moved on to dyes and tested dye baths, using wax, pearls, tied knots, and applied thread to create colour patterns.

DyebathDrying up dyed cloth

We also prepared a set of 15 colours, using natural dyestuffs, such as alcanet, cochineal, campechehout, coffee, persian berry, safflower, and St. John’s wart, to experiment with dye effects. We placed four plastic cups in front of each dyestuff, using three different mordants (alum, copper, tin), to produce a variety of yellows, reds, greens and browns. The next day, we had a gorgeous variety of beautifully dyed wool! Since red in all its varieties is my favourite colour, I absolutely loved the variety of oranges, purples and pinks that we got from using madder, cochineal, brazilwood and cachou.

Natural dyestuffsDyed wool

We then moved on to learn the basics of weaving. According to Gillian, people are usually either spinners or weavers. I think I am definately a weaver. Having struggled  with spinning, I really enjoyed creating the varieties of tabby, twill and satin weaves according to the little technical drawings that we had to follow. We also experimented with weaving tapestry and velvet. I liked weaving so much that I bought the frame at home!

Variety of weavesWeaving exercise

What I really loved about the course is that we always learned everything by doing before we were taken through the technical concepts at the theoretical level. Thus, having first identified fibres, practised with wool combing and carding, spinning, dying and weaving, we examined different types textiles, paying attention to their texture, colour and patterns. The TRC has a wonderful collection of textiles, dating all the way back to the 15th-century. We were shown a whole variety of fabrics including icat, printed cotton fabrics, woollens, linen fabrics and silks, such as damasks and brocades. Since the research centre is dedicated to teaching and learning we were allowed, unusually, to handle also the historical textiles relatively freely. This provided a rather unique opportunity to really touch, sense and feel the fabrics and get a sense of how much time has been spent in creating these magnificent pieces of fabrics. Some of the beautiful historical fabrics are included in the header of this blog.


Leiden is a beautiful small town, about 20 minute train journey from Amsterdam Schipol airport. Unfortunately the weather was dreadful most of the time, but I still got to have a good look around the city in the free afternoons.

Leiden, HollandLeiden 2

And I also found a beautiful designer dress by Hoss Intropia from a small fashion boutique to wear at my brother’s wedding the next Saturday! The shop was placed on one of the adorable buildings in the picture on the left-hand side above!

The next intesive textile course is held at TCR on 14-18 October 2013. More information on the centre and its activites is available at:

I can highly recommend the course to anyone interested in textiles!

Launching our new research programme CCCC!


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ImageIn April, 2013, Marie-Louise Nosch, the director of the Centre of Textile Research, appointed me as the research manager of CTR’s new research programme ‘Clothing, costume, consumption and cultre’ (CCCC), which is run between The Danish National Research Foundation’s Centre for Textile Research, the National Museum of Denmark and the City Museum of Copenhagen. My co-director in the project is the Senior Curator of the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen, Dr. Mikkel Venborg Pedersen, who is responsible for the museum’s textile and dress collections. At this point, the purpose of the research programme is to create a network of Ph.D. students and academics to meet and discuss how early modern reserach on dress and textiles could be developed within the centre and at the National museum,  especially in regards to method. One of our missions is to combine experimental archaelogy with the  more traditional methods of history, based on empirical evidence and theoretical models. At the same time, we want to provide the Ph.D. students an opportunity to participate in the activities at both the Centre for Textile Research and at the National Museum, and to feel that they are an important part of our reserach community. We have currently six Ph.D. students from Denmark, Britain, Italy and India involved with the project. These include Charlotte Rimstad, Vivi Lena Andersen, Toolika Gupta, Karolina Hutkova, Vibe Maria Martens and Alice Dolan. I am so much looking forward to the opportunity to working with these incredibly talented young students!


We have also intensive co-operation with many establisehed scholars from several different countries. The main international partners of the project include Warwick and Glasgow University, UK, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Indian Council of Historical Research, Delhi, India and the Europe University in Florence, Italy. Our plan is in near future to organise brain-storming sessions and workshops that include both practical work on textiles as well as theoretical discussions about the production of wool, silk and linen and their uses and meanings in various social and cultural contexts. We are also planning a workshop in India in 2014, where a number of traditional crafts and textile techniques now lost to us are still preserved and practised.

You can visit our webpage at:

For exciting experiments with experimental archaeology, see the flax-project by Ph.D. student Alice Dolan, who is supervised by Prof. John Styles wihtin the Spinning Project:

Please leave your comments if you have any great ideas or if you’d like to keep posted on our activities!


Starting work at the Centre for Textile research!


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The University of Copenhagen’s Amager campus has been under major construction and the Centre for Textile Research had just been moved to new, beautiful modern premises.

The orbitIMG_7059


Settling to the new university in a foreign country was sometimes hard work but the large community of researhcers and students at the CTR was extremely welcoming. The Centre is run by Prof. Marie-Louise Nosch and it hosts a large number of international researchers, from Europe, United States and India. I was also immediately introduced to my own, very sweet reserach assistant, Julie Bjørg Raith, who will help us run our new Research Programme titled ‘Clohting, Costumes, Clothing, Consumption, and Culture’ (CCCC), which I am co-directing with the head curator of textiles and fashion at the National Museum, Denmark, Dr. Mikkel Venborg Pedersen. We are expecting five more Marie Curie researchers at the CTR this Autumn so it will an excting period of two years! This is a truly inspiring environemnt to start a new research project, I am very excited!

You can visit the Centre for Textile Research webpages at: or find them on Facebook!


Moving to Denmark!


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My exciting research period in Copenhagen started on March 1, 2013. I found a beautiful one-bedroom flat at Blågårds Plads in the vibrant district of Nørrebro, about 10 minutes walk from the busy train station Nørreport (though I soon discovered that for Danish people everything in Copenhagen is always 10 minutes away!). Alhtough the locals told me that the neighbourhood, and in particular my home square had a bad reputation, I really enjoy the lively, bohemian and multi-cultural neighbourhood life, with small cafes, live jazz music, bars and wonderful street vegetable stalls! Love it!

In Copenhagen, everyone needs a bike! This bike was love at first sight and I could immediately see myself cycling on it in a Copenhagen style, the front basket stuffed with flower buckets, organic food and, of course, a couple bottles of Carlsberg beer! By the way, did you know that the Carlsberg Foundation is one of the major funders of historical reserach in Denmark?

Cycling in Copenhagen style

Like a proper tourist, I started my stay in Copenhagen with sightseeing in the city. I was accompanied by my daughter Venla, a trendy 20-year old jazz singer and graphic design student, who loves are, good food and art. Cruising on the canal boat, passing by the newly built Opera House on Holmen, the incredibly famous Little Mermaid and the new library buliding known as ‘Black Diamond’, we got a sense of Copenhagen’s charm. One of the most famous locations in the city is Nyhavn, the small harbour area sided by a row of colourful and picturesque building from the 1700s. The famous writer H. C. Andersen wrote his first fairy tale in the house number 20 down the harbour in 1835. Today, Nyhavn is filled with bars and cafes that offer a variety of drinks and the famous Danish Smørrebrød.


We soon discovered that people here are really friendly and relaxed. They seem to enjoy their life. Below, the city’s inhabitants are enjoying the lunch hour in front of the Black Diamond.

By the black diamond

We also discovered some great restaurants. The Oyster & Grill near our place on Sjællandsgade in Nørrebro soon became our favourite. The place offers great steaks, beuatiful seafood platters and delicious home-made Italian bread in an informal setting, made up of small tables that are laid out with colourful tablecloths and candles. At our first visit, we stayed at the front bar and ordered a big platter of fresh mussels, prepared in parsley sauce, with a nice glass of white wine! Here is my daughter Venla. I recommend you book a table because the place is always full!

Oysters and grillAt Oyster and Grill