8 June 2017 – Workshop – ‘Luxury and Exoticism: Textiles and Dress in Museums and Historic Houses’


University of Wolverhampton, UK
8 June 2017

To register, please complete the registration form available here (The link will take you to the University of Wolverhampton’s E-store)


10.30 – 11.00 Registration and refreshments

11.00 – 11.30 Emma Slocombe, National Trust, UK

‘The acquisition and reuse of 15th century ecclesiastical textiles by Bess of Hardwick’

11.30 – 12.00 Gaia Bruno, Università degli Studi di Napoli ‘Federico II’, Italy

‘Acting China: Twentieth-century costumes for an Eighteenth century Neapolitan play’

12.00 – 12.30 Caroline Tonna, Casa Rocca Piccola, Malta

‘Extravagant dress of the Maltese gentry and nobility in private collections’

12.30 – 13.30 Lunch

13.30 – 14.00  Helen Persson, The Swedish History Museum, Sweden

‘Exotic textiles for the Church of Sweden’

14.00 – 14.30 Brenda Rewhorn, University of Chester, UK

‘Tatted Textiles in Museums and Private Collections’

14.30 – 15.00 Anastasia Falierou, New Europe College, Romania

‘Studying Ottoman Women’s Costumes through the Sadberk Hanım Museum Collection’

15.00 – 15.30 Coffee break

15.30 – 16.00 Katie Taylor, National Trust, UK

‘The Dunham Massey Chapel Silk: Unpicking the past of a “purple silk damask” ’

16.00 – 16.30 Alison Lister, Textile Conservation Limited, UK

‘The lady in the tutti frutti hat: conserving the costumes of Carmen Miranda’



The workshop will be held in Room MH108-9, on the first floor of the Mary Seacole (MH) Building, City Campus, University of Wolverhampton.

The Mary Seacole (MH) Building is located on City Campus Molineux (North), a short (10/15 minutes) walk from Wolverhampton’s bus and train stations.

For maps and directions, please see:


The fee is £ 20

To register, please complete the registration form available here (The link will take you to the University of Wolverhampton’s E-store)

For further information, please e-mail Laura Ugolini at: l.ugolini@wlv.ac.uk



Gaia Bruno, Università degli Studi di Napoli ‘Federico II’, Italy

Acting China: Twentieth-century costumes for an Eighteenth century Neapolitan play

The San Carlo theatre has recently set up a museum in Naples, called ‘Memus’, where is possible to appreciate its archive documents, together with costumes. Last year, the ‘Memus’ opened a temporary exhibition to celebrate Giovanni Paisiello, the famous Eighteenth century Neapolitan musician, in his death anniversary.

In the exhibition many costumes, created for twentieth-century productions of Paisiello’s plays, are displayed, but two of them are of particular interest to the purpose of this workshop: the costumes of the main characters of L’idolo cinese, an opera buffa, first performed in 1767, then in 1955 and in 1992.

My proposal is to analyze those dresses as cultural linkers: firstly as linkers of time between the eighteenth and twentieth century, then as cultural linkers, because they represent the Western perception of a Far East culture.

In other words, the twentieth-century productions, which those costumes belong to, acted as a time capsule, offering a privileged perspective to look inside eighteenth-century culture, with its taste for exoticism. And it is exactly this exoticism that will be investigated in a double meaning.

First of all, L’idolo cinese was created according to the taste of the eighteenth century for China by an author who had never been in that country; he took its inspiration from chinoiserie, objects, porcelains and wallpapers available in the Kingdom of Naples. In that sense, the exoticism will be explained as an important part of material culture of Neapolitan upper-class, a sign of distinction, of luxury.

But this is not enough. Thanks to other sources, handwritten and printed, my aim is to investigate the hypothesis that the exotic set of the play hides a satirical message. Paisiello, indeed, was a careful follower of fashion trends, as well as a man attentive to the intellectual climate that surrounded him; and the eighteenth century in Naples was filled by the debate against the Catholic Church’s political power, in conjunction with the disapproval of naïve popular devotion.

Anastasia Falierou, New Europe College, Romania

Studying Ottoman Women’s Costumes through the Sadberk Hanım Museum Collection

The genesis of fashion is in and of itself one of the most striking signs of the radical transformation of a society. Social changes and changes in fashion go hand in hand. To reflect on the history of clothing and its transformations means not only to go directly to the heart of the social and cultural history of the Ottoman Empire but also to study the process of the transformation of the Ottoman society from another point of view, different from the most commonly-envisaged administrative and political perspectives. Thus, clothing becomes a code for reading and understanding the Ottoman society and a methodological tool that can break the boundaries between micro- and macro-history and between the private and the public.

My presentation will focus on Ottoman Muslim women’s fashion and its symbolisms through the Sadberk Hanım Museum Collection. Situated at the Azaryan Mansion in Sariyer, Istanbul, Sadberk Hanım Museum is Turkey’s first private museum aiming to exhibit the private collection of Sadberk Koç, the wife of Vehbi Koç. My special interest on Sadberk Hanım Museum’s collection of women’s costume derives from its constantly growing size and variety. The Museum has a surprisingly rich collection consisting of textiles, embroideries, indoor costumes and articles of dresses dating from the 18th to 20th centuries.  Amongst the garments displayed one can also find costumes worn in special occasions such as weddings. Moreover, the collection comprises examples of both traditional and European style costumes. The study of these costumes, undoubtedly, sheds light to the process of the gradual adoption of the European fashions in the Ottoman capital and their diffusion to other cities around the Empire.

Alison Lister, Textile Conservation Limited, UK

The lady in the tutti frutti hat: conserving the costumes of Carmen Miranda

Carmen Miranda (1909-1955) was a successful Brazilian singer and dancer who came to fame worldwide when she moved to the US in 1939 to star in numerous Broadway and Hollywood musicals.  Labelled the ‘Brazilian Bombshell’ and known for her glamourous and exotic costumes Carmen Miranda was one of the highest earning female performers in the 1940s.  Her trademark look, inspired by outfits worn by Afro-Brazilian female street vendors, included brightly coloured skirts, frilly shoulder flounces, heavy gold jewellery, platform shoes and highly decorated turbans.  Carmen Miranda’s iconic style remains an important cultural and aesthetic reference in fashion, music and advertising.

Miranda 1

Miranda 2

The Carmen Miranda museum in Rio de Janeiro was established in 1955, and until its recent closure housed many of her most famous costumes.  After years of display some items are now in poor condition.  The collection is due to move to the new Museum of Image and Sound being built on Copacabana beach.

Textile Conservation Limited in Bristol became involved in the conservation of the collection through a personal connection between a Brazilian textile conservator and the studio’s principal conservator, Alison Lister.  Over the past year Alison has spent several weeks in Rio working with colleagues to assess and conserve the costumes, and the project is on-going.

In the presentation the costume collection of the Carmen Miranda Museum will be introduced and the common condition problems outlined.   The conservation treatments being applied to the objects selected for display in the new museum will be described.

Miranda 3

Miranda 4

Miranda 5

Helen Persson, The Swedish History Museum, Sweden

Exotic textiles for the Church of Sweden

The earliest evidence of Christianity in the country known today as Sweden are from the mid-ninth century, but appears not to have become a state religion until late eleventh century. However, the churches caught up quickly and early medieval written sources describe their growing possessions of luxurious textiles. Kings, queens, and members of the aristocracy donated and bequeathed large amount of expensive textiles and dresses, to be used and re-used for the interior adornment and the priest. The textiles were usually imported from the Continent, such as Germany and Netherlands, but surprisingly many had a much more exotic country of origin. A number of exotic Chinese textiles have been used in the service of the Church of Sweden from as early as fourteenth century as ecclesiastical dress and there are even auspicious hanging from the Ming dynasty re-made into altar frontal. There are sixteenth century Ottoman caftans remade into chasubles and turban covers from the late seventeenth century used as baptismal font covers. These shiny silk textiles with depictions of exotic flowers and beasts such as tulips, dragons and qilins must have both bamboozled and mesmerized the general Swedish church-goer.

Luckily, the Reformation in Sweden did not affect the use of liturgical dress and furnishings as much as in other reformed countries, and therefore a large amount of these textiles have survived till today. Many of them are in the collection of the Swedish History Museum.

This paper will discuss the visual demonstration of power and status of the Church through exotic textiles, with focus on the Oriental textiles from the fourteenth to the eighteenth centuries in the collection of the Swedish History Museum. It will show the importance of textiles in the presentation of the Church room and in the performance of the priest. The paper will look at the re-use of textiles, as some may have had previous functions as fashionable dress. The paper will also include thoughts on trade routes, as during the Medieval times Sweden was in many ways a country in the periphery of Europe; how did these exotic textiles, in particular the Chinese, reach the country?

The paper will be presented with a rich array of visuals: surviving ecclesiastical dress and furnishings, fragments, reconstructions and contemporary depictions in art.

Brenda Rewhorn, University of Chester, UK

Tatted Textiles in Museums and Private Collections

Tatting is a hand-held, labour-intensive, knotted lace technique made using a shuttle although a slightly different technique can be made with a needle.  The origins of shuttle tatting (the technique I am most interested in) are veiled in history but one theory is that it developed from knotting made famous by the satirical poem by John Sedley (1639-1701) deriding Queen Mary knotting as she travelled in her coach. One the first known reference to tatting in print as we know it today was in 1843 by Jane Gaugain  in her manual of needlework when she illustrates a shuttle but labels it a needle.

Almost all tatted examples in museums are identified by the donor, not the maker but I have found two collections which can be attributed to two aristocratic ladies, Queen Elisabeth of Romania (1841-1916) and Lady Hoare of Norfolk (1846-1931). The surviving collection of Queen Elisabeth in Romania consists of four ecclesiastical pieces and the collection attributed to Lady Hoare consists of numerous ecclesiastical items as well as secular items mainly held by her descendant.

Items held in museums vary from small unattached samples to edgings for clothing; all shapes and sizes of collars, wide edgings for underwear, parasols, babies’ dresses and bonnets: they would be considered luxury items because of the length of time to make consequently with something like babies christening dresses which would be handed down through the generations.

Tatting is labour intensive but not expensive as all that is needed is something to hold a long length of thread small enough to be manipulated in the hand, and suitable smooth thread. Queen Elisabeth mainly worked in silk whereas Lady Hoare worked in cotton. With the advent of mercerised cotton in 1844 would have made suitable cotton more available to all class of people. During the potato famine in Ireland many women were encouraged to tat motifs which would have been taken to a central location to be assembled into large items as seen by the example in the Victoria and Albert Museum and numerous parasols made to shade the sun from the faces of the Victorian ladies. It can be seen that tatting has been, and is used, for a variety dress and furnishing items for the home and religious institutions.

 Emma Slocombe, National Trust, UK

The acquisition and reuse of 15th century ecclesiastical textiles by Bess of Hardwick

The textile collection of Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury (c. 1527-1608), known as Bess of Hardwick, at Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire, is one of the most complete collections of its type to survive and its significance has long been recognized. Because of the wealth of documentary evidence, it is possible to trace in rare detail the history of the acquisition, display and later treatment of many pieces of embroidery and needlework. Scholarly research, notably Santina M. Levey’s The Embroideries of Hardwick Hall (2007), has ensured Hardwick’s late 16th century embroidery and needlework is very well known. However, also within the collection are a group of important but largely unpublished ecclesiastical embroideries, originally from church vestments, later reused as furnishing textiles.

Studies of medieval embroideries in post-Reformation England have traditionally focused on: their destruction in order to recover precious gold thread; their sale to the Catholic Church in Europe; or their concealment by recusant families.   The story at Hardwick runs counter to these narratives. This paper explores Bess’s motivation for acquiring vestments, made redundant by the ban in 1552 on the wearing of ‘alb, chasuble, and cope’ for communion, given her prominence as a member of a new protestant nobility following Henry VIII’s break with Rome and her subsequent loyalty to Edward VI and Elizabeth I. The size of the surviving collection of orphreys and cope hoods also enables comparative analysis and the identification of possible print sources while recent conservation by May Berkouwer has revealed some of the original techniques of construction. I will conclude with an examination of the extensive reuse of ecclesiastical embroidery and textiles in the creation of opulent appliqué wall hangings and bed sets in the secular environment of Bess’s successive houses, Northaw, Chatsworth and the Old and New Halls at Hardwick and how this prominent display of wealth and opulence has survived and been adapted over the centuries.

Katie Taylor, National Trust, UK

The Dunham Massey Chapel Silk: Unpicking the past of a ‘purple silk damask’

Dunham Massey Hall, near Manchester was the seat of the earls of Stamford and Warrington until 1976 when it passed to the National Trust.  The almost continuous occupation by a succession of generations of the same family for over 400 years meant that the house was a veritable treasure trove: central to these treasures is a large, indigenous domestic textile collection.  This is supported by the largest indigenous costume collection in National Trust ownership. A 16th century Italian wool jacket pre-dates the building of the first Hall at Dunham.  Stars of the collection include a 17th century state bed and gauntlets, 18th century Spitalfields silks, 19th century Manchester cottons, Morant & Co supplied silk damasks, Edwardian fancy-dress and post-war man-made fibres which mean that the collection can be used to demonstrate the changing fashions and significance of textiles in everyday life.

There are three surviving examples of Spitalfields silks at Dunham Massey, only one of which is on permanent display:  the Chapel reredos, around which this whole project and paper are based.

In the early 1900s, Morant & Co were commissioned to replicate the Chapel silk, as part of a bigger campaign of refurbishment of the Hall.  Only the reredos was left from the 18th century silk, described in the inventory of 1758 as ‘purple silk damask’.  After 100 years this Morant silk was beyond repair so in 2014, we embarked 2-year project to re-weave the blue silk damask.

This paper will recount the development of the project considering the complexity of replicating the design, colour and pattern repeat to the surviving sample and the conservation considerations of removing and storing the old silk, and hanging the new.

It will consider public access and interpretation in an intrinsically fragile and ethically sensitive space: the Chapel is still a consecrated place of worship.  It will consider the public perception and expectation of spaces within the country house.

Finally it will reflect on what we learnt along the way and how the historic inventories and research from other projects held clues to the history, adaption and development of the story of this remarkable silk.

 Caroline Tonna, Casa Rocca Piccola, Malta

Extravagant dress of the Maltese gentry and nobility in private collections

Documentation, painted portraits and a few surviving period costume in house museums and private collections attest to a refined taste for opulence in dress of the gentry and nobility in Malta.  This paper focuses mainly on the female costume collection and lace pieces archived at the 16th century lived-in house museum of a Maltese noble de Piro family, Casa Rocca Piccola in baroque city of Valletta and some very few other period costumes in private houses mostly from the old city of Mdina.  The small selection of surviving period costumes under study covers the period between the 18th and 19th century.  The clothes are studied and ‘read’ from different aspects to provide us with information on the rich textiles and trimmings used for their adornment; on how the clothes relate to the individual taste, wealth, identity and status of those who wore them; and how they also embody cultural and social values.

In addition to the interpretation of the existing clothes, textual sources such as public notarial deeds of inventories and dowries and the de Piro family archives reveal the variety of imported textiles and clothing articles, the names of garments and their colour and sometimes even their monetary value.   These documents also shed light on the commercial trading of textile and clothing of Malta, which has a strategic geographic position in the Mediterranean, with other neighbouring countries and Europe.

This paper shows that the aspirations of the Maltese gentry and nobility in the 18th and 19th century, notwithstanding the island’s small size and limited natural resources, mirror the love for luxury in clothing like the rest of Europe.


Detail from: Panel with Chinoiserie motifs, c. 1700, British, Silk thread on linen foundation fabric, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011.412, Purchase, Friends of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Gifts, 2011. Image courtesy of www.metmuseum.org

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