Theme 2: The designer and the merchant: names, reputations and the language of innovation

Principal Investigator 02: Lesley Miller

Post-doctoral Researcher: Corinne Thépaut-Cabasset


Mantua, Spitalfields, England (probably, woven) Great Britain (made), 1733-1734 (woven) 1735-1740 (made), Victoria & Albert Museum.

Mantua and Petticoat, Great Britain (made), 1740-1745 (made) 1875-1900 (altered), Victoria & Albert Museum.

Gown and Petticoat, Spitalfields, England (woven) & Great Britain (made), ca. 1732 (woven) & 1735-1740 (sewn), Victoria & Albert Museum.


Research Context, Research Questions

Data Collection on Fashioning Goods

Knowledge Exchange: Europe 1600-1800 Galleries

Webtrails: Object in Focus

Webtrails: Fashioning Goods & Glossary of Terms

Workshops: Objects from V & A collections, Report



Research Context, Research Questions

Read the Description in full here.

The V&A project focuses on bringing together objects, texts and images in order to interrogate the ways in which they were used to translate knowledge of innovation from one location to another. It will also address the role of some of the intermediaries in this process, many of whom travelled extensively (designers, merchants, their agents/commissionaires). As now, long-distance communication between manufacturer and consumer was essential in introducing innovations. In a pre-internet age, it took longer, yet still moved comparatively rapidly. Given today’s virtual reality, it may be timely to assess how both actual objects and words informed fashion innovation. In the early-modern period, commercial correspondence and tools such as sample books relayed fashions, even before the fashion and commercial press became agents in dissemination. The second approach in this strand of the investigation is to build up a body of data from primarily commercial tools: textiles sample books, commercial correspondence, the commercial press (Almanachs de commerce, Affiches, trade cards), and reference to purchases in the stocks in shopkeepers’ inventories and in wardrobe accounts. Importantly, these sources allow an investigation of the fashion industries, at a time when textiles and accessories, rather than style, generally determined the novelty of dress – possibly because textiles and accessories were more portable. While there is a substantial corpus of work on Anglo-American sample books, there is still no listing of surviving books for this period in archives and museums across Europe. Such a survey would allow comparative analysis of objects and vocabulary, as well as a more rounded assessment of how fashions were disseminated, other than via the printed word.



Data Collection on Fashioning Goods

Data Collection on the banyan and the mantua is currently ongoing and will be placed on the website in due course.




Knowledge Exchange: Europe 1600-1800 Galleries

During Year 1 of the project (June 2010 – February 2011), the Principal Investigator 01, Lesley Miller, invited Principal Investigator 02, Evelyn Welch, to facilitate an event for curators and staff from the museum’s Learning & Interpretation and Publication departments as part of the development process for the new galleries.

During Year 2 of the project (February 2010- February 2011), Lesley Miller worked primarily on creating displays for the Europe 1600-1800 galleries, via brainstorming sessions with museum colleagues familiar with the collections. Three approaches will be taken: the inclusion of fashionable textiles and dress within thematic displays (such as Rococo or Shopping); displays dedicated to some aspect of fashion and pertinent to the chronology of each large gallery (Lace and Fashion 1600-1680, Male Adornment, 1660-1720, Silk and Fashion, 1720-80, and Revolution to Empire, 1780-1815); and the inclusion of fashion in one of the Activity Ares where the focus is on the final years of the ancien régime. This space will involve a dressing-up activity and will be adjacent to a display of fashion plates and caricatures. Consultation on this area will involve certain members of the HERA partnership and its increasing network. The Post-doctoral researcher will work with the Gallery Educator on interpretation of three displays: Lace, Louis XIV and Male Adornment.




Webtrails: Object in Focus (prepared by IP2)

Current Objects:

Object in Focus: Man’s Banyan

The following Objects in Focus will also be prepared as part of IP2 research:

  • Mantua
  • A patch box, in collaboration with a colleague in the Metalwork Department at the V&A
  • A miniature suit, in collaboration with an independent fashion historian in Paris




Webtrails: Fashioning Goods & Glossary of Terms

Research on the terminology used in five European languages ( English, French, Italian, Swedish, Danish and German) relating to fashionable goods studied by the partners is currently in progress. Information on the terms used for guilds and makers / retailers in all the languages studied is also being collected. Where relevant, the contextual use of a word has been included to reflect the variation of contexts in which a term can be used. A search of the definitions in the original language relating to each of the terms listed is currently being conducted in the dictionaries from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. These definitions will be placed on the “Fashionable goods” pages of the website.

The comparative method applied has been used for the purpose of the study the larger research question of the transmission and dissemination mechanisms of fashionable goods in the early modern period across time, space and social group. In this context, linguistic phenomena such as semantic equivalences (between languages), semantic shifts (within a language) and direct borrowings (from one language to another) are being studied to try and explain these mechanisms.

  • Read a story about Bonaventure Carret, a travelling salesman from Lyon here (prepared by Lesley Miller).
  • A Fashionable Goods Glossary*: definitions of all of the Fashionable Goods selected have now been collected in French dictionnaries and other written sources (prepared by Corinne Thepaut-Cabasset). This is part of a collaborative document that is currently being completed with information provided from other partners and languages (Danish, Swedish, Italian, English, German);
  • A Garment and Textile Glossary in French (prepared by Corinne Thepaut Cabasset) has been compiled together with an explanation of the methodology used. This is a “work in progress” and a collaborative document. – accessible in the private area of the website only.

*Some examples of definitions od the selected objects in French can be viewed below:

Fan (English): Eventail (French)

Wig (English): Perruque (French)

Mask, Vizard (English): Masque (French)




Workshops: Report, Objects from V & A Collections

Workshops: Report from Workshop 1 (Theme 1, 2)

Workshops: Objects from V & A collections, Workshop 1




Selected Publications (IP2), Conference Papers

Latest Publications

Miller, L., ‘Fashion and Personal Adornment’, in L.E. Miller & S. Medlam, eds, Princely Treasures: Masterpieces of European Decorative Art from the Victoria and Albert Museum, V&A Publishing, London, 2011, pp. 154-89.
Miller, L., ‘Fidélités trompeuses: la consommation d’étoffes de soie à Madrid, 1759-89’, in Autour des Van Loos : peinture, commerce textile et espionnage industrielle, Presses Universitaires, Rouen, 2012, pp. 143-52.
Miller, L., A Portrait of the Raphael of Silk Design’ V&A Online Research Journal, 4 (Autumn 2012), – forthcoming.
Miller, L., ‘Material Marketing: How Lyonnais Manufacturers Sold their Silks, 1660-1790’, eds J. Stobart and B. Blondé, Selling textiles in the long eighteenth century: comparative perspectives from western Europe, Palgrave, London, forthcoming 2013.
Thépaut-Cabasset , C, . L’Esprit des modes au Grand Siècle, Paris : Comité des Travaux Historiques & Scientifiques, 2010.
Thépaut-Cabasset , C, Le voyage au Levant de Monceaux et Lainé : un nouvel extrait tiré des recueils Conrart conservés à la bibliothèque de l’Arsenal à Paris, Paris : Comité des Travaux Historiques & Scientifiques, 2010.
Thépaut-Cabasset , C, « Garde-robe de souverain et réseau international : l’exemple de la Bavière dans les années 1680 ». In : Se vêtir à la cour en Europe 1400-1815 (eds. Isabelle Paresys, Natacha Coquery), Lille : Institut de recherches historiques du septentrion Université Lille 3 – Château de Versailles, 2011, pp. 177-93.


Conference Papers (2010-2012)

Lesley Miller (PI)

‘Paris Fashions Made in Lyon: Pure Research and its Applications’, Developments in Dress History, Brighton University, 8-10 December 2011.

‘L’évolution du métier de dessinateur au XVIIIe siècle’, paper to be given at the academic conference on Innovation in the Lyon Silk Industry. Organised in conjunction with the Festival de la Soie in Lyon, Musées Gadagne, November 2012 (forthcoming).

Corinne Thépaut-Cabasset (Post-doc)

‘From point de Venise to point de France: which stitch for which fashion?’, paper given at conference held in St Gall, May 2011.

Paper delivered on research in the Bavarian archives at the V&A/RCA Research Seminar, October 2011.

‘Princely shopping in Paris at the end of the 17th century’ to be given at the Modern monarchy conference at Kensington Palace, 5-8 June 2012 – forthcoming.

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