Dirty Laundry: Caring for Clothing in Early Modern Italy

Michele Nicole Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Personal linens were key components of early modern health regimens. When they were visibly clean and bright white, linen shirtsleeves, collars and cuffs communicated the cleanliness of the wearer’s body, as well as the state of their mind, morals and spirit. These functional garments and accessories could also be fashionable, especially when decorated with ruffles, lace and embroidery. Linens thus communicated hygienic, social, moral and financial information, which was generated by and reliant upon processes of laundry. This article explores some of these processes, especially as they pertain to linen shirts, cuffs and ruffs owned by non-elite people living in northern Italian cities. It brings archival, visual and material sources together with evidence generated through the re-creation of early modern processes of caring for clothing to show how ‘doing the laundry’ imparted linens with social and financial meanings and values.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-23
Number of pages21
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Early modern Italy
  • linen
  • laundry
  • shirts
  • collars
  • Fashion


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