Conference Aims

Dress was a primary expression of identity in the European middle ages, when individuals made strategic choices about clothing and bodily adornment (including hairstyle, jewelry, and other accessories) in order to communicate gender, ethnicity, status, occupation, and other personal and group identities.  Because outward appearances were often interpreted as a reliable reflection of inner selves, medieval dress, in its material embodiment was well as in literary and artistic representations, carried extraordinary moral and social meaning.

This conference aims to bring together recent research on the material culture and social meanings of dress in the Middle Ages to explore the following or related questions:

  • The implications of being able to study medieval dress only in representation
  • The strategies that were served by dress, either embodied or in representation
  • The effects of cultural and economic factors, such as cross-cultural contact and trade, commerce, and/or technology, on dress and its uses
  • The development of the so-called “Western fashion system” and the cultural changes which it inspired or reflected

Conference participants come from Australia, Europe, the Middle East, and North America, and include Jennifer L. Ball, Gale Owen Crocker, Sarah Grace Heller, Maria Giuseppina Muzzarelli, Daniel Lord Smail, and Laurel Ann Wilson.