Books of Secrets and Artisans’ Dress in Italy, 1550–1650

Michele Nicole Robinson (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesConference presentation


As part of the ERC–funded project, Refashioning the Renaissance: Popular Groups and the Material and Cultural Significance of Clothing in Europe, 1550–1650, my research explores how print culture helped to disseminate ideas about fashion among average people in Italy. My paper will focus on one specific source within this research: books of secrets. These popular books and pamphlets provided, among other things, recipes for processes like removing stains, dyeing, and deep cleaning textiles. Some were complicated and called for exotic ingredients, but others required simple things many people would have had at home or that were easy to obtain. These texts therefore reveal some of the ways that people might care for and update their garments at home, rather than paying a professional. My research goes beyond traditional research methods, however, by incorporating the results of trials with these recipes as part of the experimental phase of the Refashioning the Renaissance project. This not only helps us to better understand how print culture spread knowledge about caring for textiles and the ways that average people were able to engage with ideas about fashion, but how experimentation and making contribute to our understanding of everyday life in the past.
Period24 May 2019
Event titleNew Research in Dress History Conference
Event typeConference
LocationEdinburgh, United Kingdom