Theme 3: Print-culture and fashion products

Principal Investigator 03: Peter McNeil

Post-doctoral Researcher: Patrik Steorn


French print: "Les mouches", National Museum of Fine Arts, Stockholm, 1600s

French print: "La mode triomphant en la place du change", National Museum of Fine Arts, Stockholm, 1640s

Swedish National costume for women, National Museum of Fine Arts, Stockholm, 1778


Research Context, Research Questions

Research Progress: IP-01

Data Collection on Fashioning Goods

Webtrails: Object in Focus

Webtrails: Fashioning Goods and Glossary of Terms

Workshops: Objects from collections, Report

Publications (project years 1-3)

Research Note: Elsa Fougt, Swedish Royal Printer c.1780-1810




Research Context, Research Questions

Read a full description here.

Along with IP2 this aspect of our work also focuses on the importance of print-culture in disseminating ideas about fashion in a European context; IP3 specifically interrogates the mechanisms through which print (as news, trade-cards, visual and satirical images) supported or undermined the spread of fashions such as ruffs, wigs, new forms of hairstyles and hose. The data generated will allow us to specifically model the transmission of this visual form of information between England, France and Scandinavia.

Importantly, this project recognises the fact that fashion is both a material product and a feature of the imagination. The way in which it is visualized, disseminated and distributed through representations is central to its social impact and influence across time and place, the key issue for the CRP as a whole. A study of print culture as it relates to fashion also requires the type of detailed understandings of the producers and reading publics for eighteenth-century periodicals and earlier forms of print. Yet the study of the construction and dissemination of the first fashion magazines is still little understood. This part of the project will ask the following questions: What was the relationship between publishers, writers and illustrators of the fashion design press in France, England and Sweden? Who provided the narrative structure and imaginary settings of these magazines that continue to animate contemporary advertising today? How do we track (potentially using some of Ormerod’s evolutionary and spatial analysis models) the transmission of ideas in print as well as in practice – and what is their inter-relationship?

The dominance of an English-French dialogue about fashion is not just a product of the dominance of contemporary Western European foci in cultural history, in part a product of the languages that were taught in schools and colleges until recently. Even in the 18th century, fashion was often discussed as a type of dialogue between France and England. The eighteenth-century periodical Cabinet des Modes was itself positioned as a type of dialogue between England and France, suggesting that fashion derived from these two principal fashion capitals. Indeed, it changed its name at one stage to Magasin des Modes Nouvelles Françaises et Anglaises, allowing both a pictorial and a rhetorical dialogue to take place on the page, and inserting both countries into a cosmopolitan circuit of ideas and of exchange. How then can we narrate the story of fashionability in countries other than France and England, what can be learned from national collections and foreign language texts than remain poorly accessed outside those countries?




Research in Progress: PI-01

During Project Year 2, Principal Investigator 03, Peter McNeil, conducted extensive primary research in public and private collections in London, Zurich, Zug (private research library of Martin Kamer), Paris (Musée du Louvre; Musée Carnavalet, Musée Cognacq-Jay), Copenhagen, Los Angeles (LA County Museum) and New York (NY Public Library).

As part of his trip to the USA and his invitation to speak at a public symposium ‘Fashion Icons and Insiders’ at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, McNeil was able to make a study tour of the significant dress holdings at the Los Angeles County Museum. Recipients of the Kamer-Ruff collection, which is based around 18th-century artefacts, the museum has a major commitment to early-modern fashion. As a result of this visit, McNeil was invited to consult and write for their forthcoming major exhibition on men’s fashion, ‘Reigning Men’ (opening 2013-14). McNeil made a close study of the Los Angeles County museum’s waistcoat collection in storage as well as accessories such as a rare Hercules club c1800 and the extremely rare Incroyable dressed doll, with the full co-operation of the curators Sharon Takeda and Kaye Spilker. These objects will provide material for the “Object in Focus” series for the website. In Zug, outside Zurich, McNeil met with the retired fashion collector Martin Kamer and inspected Kamer’s large reference collection of 18th century journals and prints. Many of the rare impressions and examples became a feature of McNeil’s presentation at the Print Culture and Fashion Culture workshop.




Data Collection: Data Collective Source & Fashionable Goods

As part of Individual Project 3: Print Culture and Fashion Products, Patrik Steorn collected data on fashion prints 1500-1800 from the following Swedish museums: National Museum (Stockholm), Royal Library (Stockholm), National archives (Stockholm), National Museum of Fine Arts (Stockholm), Nordic Museum (Stockholm) and Kulturen (Lund). A small number of textual sources have also been collected.

126 objects (fashion prints) have been collected and can currently be accessed on the Data Collection page for IP-03 in the private area of the website. A selection of the visual sources collected will be made available in the public area of the website in due course.




Webtrails: Object in Focus

Swedish Faience Tray with English Fashion Caricature

This faience tray from the collections of the National Museum of Fine Arts in Stockholm, was made in Sweden in 1772, decorated with the motif of an English fashion caricature entitled „Ridiculous Taste or the Ladies Absurdity?. The image is „after? an etching with engraving produced by the London print-sellers and makers Matthew and Mary Darly in July 1771.1 The Swedish decorative painter Erik Borg translated the scene from a paper print to a hand-painted faience tray at the Swedish manufacturer Marieberg in Stockholm, which was one of the more creative of the ceramic producers in eighteenth-century Sweden. This robust example, with its dramatic sweeping tendril frame, suggests that English caricature imagery was incorporated into the expanding visual culture of 18th Century Sweden very rapidly. Together with the importation of the paper prints themselves, which were often pirated by local printers, a broader European social critique was also made part of local cultural production.

The Swedish King’s Cinnamon Cane

Made of a wooden branch that was originally straightened out, and then coated with cinnamon bark, this elegantly looking, and possibly still scenting, cane is 152 cm long and is held in the Royal Armoury collection in Stockholm. It was most probably owned by Gustav I Vasa of Sweden (1496-1560), suggested by the Vasa family weapon (a sheaf) and the initials GR (Gustavus Rex) that appear on the top knot. The cane is mentioned in the royal inventories from the 1560’s, and there are notes that the king bought 8,5 pounds of cinnamon in 1541. It might be suggested that a part of this was used to coat this cane. The exotic origin of the spice and its characteristic and warm scent must have provided the wearer with a distinguished air. Katia Johansen of the Royal Danish Collections emphasizes that perfumed dress, accessories and textiles are abundant in historic dress collections and in documentary sources.





Webtrails: Fashioning Goods and Glossary of Terms

Fashioning Goods

As part of his research, Patrik Steorn has searched the collections of Livrustkammaren (Royal Armoury) and Nordiska museet for objects of special interest listed on the Fashionable Goods list that are being studied by the partners of the project.

Information on the objects available in the collections of the Royal Armoury and the Noriska Museet is currently being systematised and will be placed in the private area of the website. It can be noted that the changing interests and collection policies of the respective museums reflect the wealth of information available on each of the fashionable goods selected, which is in itself an important indicator of what is considered to be an “interesting” object for the museum’s perspective.

Many kinds of lace collars, ruffs, cuffs, scarfs can be found at the Nordiska Museet. Historically, one could find a concentration of lace craft in Vadstena (in the middle of Sweden), which might have stimulated the interest for these products. It cannot be established with certainty where the lace patterns originate from, but it can be deduced that at least some of these must have been of international origin. Also, one can find examples of a type of Fontange (“Barbe” in Swedish), as well as a large collection of shoes from the 18th century.

A uniquely interesting object from the Royal Armoury is the Cinnnamon Cane (see the Object in Focus section above). Other interesting objects include shoe roses, hat ribbons and sword belts (mainly from the 17th century). Historic information on these objects indicate that all of these royal items were imported, mainly from France.

Glossary of Terms

Research of the terminology used in five European languages ( English, French, Italian, Swedish, Danish and German) relating to fashionable goods studied in this project is currently in progress and is being conducted in the dictionaries from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The research 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.

Research in the Swedish Academy dictionary (Svenska Akademiens ordbook) has been conducted by Patrik Steorn to investigate the question of the dissemination of the fashionable goods in Europe in the period 1500-1800 and their adoption from a terminology perspective. The definitions in Swedish of all the terms on the Fashionable Goods list have now been identified and are currently being translated into English (by Lena Dahren, Uppsala University). These definitions will be made available on the “Fashionable Goods” pages in due course.

Some examples of the definitions identified in Swedish and their translations in English can be found below:

Fan (English): Solfjäder (Swedish)
English Translation summary: A tool for keeping [women] cool. Known in Swedish sources since 1635 (Royal Wardrobe). In 1760s fans made of turkey feathers where used.

Wig (English): Peruk (Swedish)
English translation summary:

: a kind of headgear formed after the shape of the head covered with loose hair attached. Used instead of one’s own hair. Older term “peruck” was used in 1631.
Wig box (Peruk-ask): box made of wood or cardboard. Estate inventory 1750.
Wig-maker (Peruk-makare): (peruk- 1667 osv. peruker- 1812) [compare to the german word perückenmacher]. A male person who makes and repairs wigs professionally. Estate inventory, 1667: “At ingen, utom Peruque-Makare, äger tilstånd inrikes at drifva någon handel med Hårs upkiöpande och försäljande.” (Approx. Nobody but wig-makers were allowed to deal with buying or selling hair.(1735).

Cane (English): Käpp (Swedish)
English Translation summary:

A cane can be used as decoration or as a sign of dignity. A walking cane is often decorated and can sometimes be made in other material than wood. A cane with a “silver krycka”. The earliest mention of the word in Swedish can been found in Lukas , 9:3, New Testament, 1526. Mentioned in an estate inventory from 1680, Stockholm.





Workshops: Objects from collections, Report from Workshop 4

Workshops: Objects from the Collections of the National Museum, Nordiska Museet & Royal Armoury, Workshop 4

Workshops: Report from Workshop 4






Selected Publications (project years 1-3)

McNeil, P., Nordic Fashion Studies (with Louise Wallenberg, eds), Stockholm, axl Books, February 2012 (ISBN 9789197859899).

McNeil, P., Shoes: A History from Sandals to Sneakers (with Giorgio Riello), 2nd ed. Oxford and NY: Berg, 2011. 439pp.

McNeil, P. (ed), ‘Indexing Dress—The Berg Encyclopedia of World Dress and Fashion: Special supplement of Fashion Theory with introductory essay’, Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body and Culture (ISSN 1362-704X), 2012.

McNeil, P., ‘What’s the Matter?: The Object in Australian Art History’, Journal of Art Historiography, ISSN 24752, 1: 4, June 2011, pp. 1-19.

McNeil, P., ‘Walking the Streets of London and Paris: Shoes in the Enlightenment’ (with G Riello), Shoes: A History from Sandals to Sneakers, 2nd ed. Oxford and NY: Berg, 2011, pp. 94-115.

McNeil, P., ‘Old empire and new global luxury: Fashioning global design’, in Glenn Adamson, Giorgio Riello and Sarah Teasley (eds), Global Design History, London and New York: Routledge, pp. 138-149.

A full list of latest publications and conference papers by Peter McNeil can be downloaded here.


Research Note: Elsa Fougt, Swedish Royal Printer c.1780-1810

Print had a profound transformational effect on mentalitiés and social horizons in the long-eighteenth century. Writing on the relationship between image and word, Franziska Bollerey notes of John Milton’s (1608-1674) perspective of print culture: ‘For him, the technology of printing greatly increased the scope for individual plurality and differentiation’.[1] A place was being found in the eighteenth century for the new woman reader who was often addressed by and through the concept of fashion. Women were not simply readers but were sometimes also involved in business and were cultural producers in this period.

Here is a summary of the role of a female ’agent’ in the print industry in Sweden, Elsa Fougt.

The note has kindly been compiled by Anna-Maria Rimm whose work was first brought to my attention by Sonya Pettersen, Stockholm University.

Peter McNeil

[1] Franziska Bollerey, ‘The old will replace the new. The struggle between image and word’, Ezelsoren. Bulletin of the Institute of History of Art, Architecture and Urbanism, vol. 1, no. 3, 2008, 17.





Images published on this page have been taken by the Fashioning the Early Modern Research Co-ordinator and should not be used for reproduction. You should contact the National Museum of Arts, Stockholm, directly to obtain permission for reproduction of images.

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