Sophia T. C. Feist

PhD Candidate in Early Modern German History

I am a PhD Candidate in History supervised by Professor Ulinka Rublack and funded by the Cambridge Trust. My thesis explores how courts in the Holy Roman Empire between 1470 and 1550 used dress to craft and enact political programmes, and looks in particular at the contributions of court tailors.

My research focusses on dress, its making, and its cultural and political meanings. I am currently examining the livery books (Hofkleiderbücher) made by the Bavarian and Electoral Saxon court tailors’ workshops in the first half of the sixteenth century. My thesis research interrogates these and other liveries as visual ritual-political acts in the context of the fundamental structural changes which took place in the sixteenth century Holy Roman Empire.

As a trained bespoke tailor, I use my craft skills in my research and am particularly interested in experimental reconstruction as a historical methodology.

In addition to my research, I catalogue textile objects at the Royal School of Needlework in London, supervise undergraduates, and am the Managing Editor for Culture, History, and Society for the student-run Central European Affairs Review.

I hold an MA in History of Art from the Courtauld Institute of Art and a BA in Art & Archaeology from Princeton University. I have previously worked as a Curatorial Intern in European Sculpture and Decorative Arts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and at the Noguchi Museum in New York, and also as a commercial archaeologist, a research assistant, a translator from German to English, and a yarn dyer.

Court life; Material culture; History of the Reformations; Politics in the Holy Roman Empire; German history; Dress and textile production and economies; Art history; Visual representations of dress; Artisans and cultures of making; Technical art history and conservation.

I supervise final-year undergraduate students on Part II Paper 14, ‘Material culture in the early modern world.’

“Requirements for Sixteenth Century Czech Tailors’ Guilds and the Reconstruction of a Burghers’ Cloak”

Material Culture in the Early Modern World Workshop (January 2024)

“Extravagant Violations and Visual Tropes: Lucas Cranach the Elder’s Use of Dress in the Budapest Martyrdom of Saint Catherine”

-British Archaeological Association Postgraduate Conference (November 2023)

-Symposium on Medieval and Renaissance Studies (St. Louis, June 2023)

Key publications

Napolitano, Rebecca, Catherine Jennings, Sophia Feist, Abigail Rettew, Grace Sommers, Hannah Smagh, Benjamin Hicks, and Branko Glisic. “Tool development for digital reconstruction: A framework for a database of historic Roman construction materials.” Journal of Cultural Heritage 40 (2019): 113-123.