The Triumph of Fashion: A Global History

Research project
Early Modern History

My book analyses how a fascination with fashion became a marked feature of life in Europe as well as other parts of the world, and was the legacy of this historical process means today. The pre-industrial period of c.1300 to 1800 proved to be pivotal for fashion’s global triumph. Fashion emerged as a powerful economic sector that involved and newly interconnected broad groups of makers, traders, consumers and thinkers who embraced its effects and often ecological devastation. Books about the history of fashion often only start in 1800 or just focus on Europe, many commentators only see courts and top elites as drivers of change while others assume that fashion has always existed through practices of adornment.  But the story needs to be told from the bottom-up, as consumers drove innovation. Fashion, moreover, is often defined through European categories, which turn on novelty in tailoring. As a result, Europe is often claimed to have invented fashion.  Yet the definition is wrong and change within Europe shared features with and substantially depended on change elsewhere – in fact, it particularly thrived on Asian and Ottoman innovation. Nor was the Western world central to trade in textiles well into modernity. To understand these processes means to understand history and how we have come to think about ourselves in time in new ways. 

Professor Ulinka Rublack.

Funding 2021-2 Wissenschaftskolleg Berlin.

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Image: Velázquez   -María Teresa (1638–1683), Infanta of Spain 1651–54. Metropolitan Museum of Art