April 23, 2008

Main themes of the Symposium

Material & Visual Cultures of Dress in European Courts

An international symposium devoted to the material and visual cultures of dress in the European courts (1400-1815) will be held in Versailles between the 4th and the 6th of June 2009. At the same time a big exhibition on court costumes (17th-18th centuries) will be held at the Versailles Palace (16th march- 14th june 2009). The symposium will deal with topics related to clothing in European courts with a larger chronological time frame, from the end of the Middle Ages, when a « body of fashion » was established and when the courts began to expand. It ends with the last splendour of the French imperial court.
The symposium of Versailles will give the opportunity to survey the current state of research in this field, consider the evolutions between 1400 and 1815, compare the courts and grasp their mutual influences. The conference will be at the crossroads of several fields of research: the Court Studies that have shown the court to be a central site of power and culture; the history of material culture and consumption; lastly the fields of the culture of appearances and those of visual cultures.

Main research themes of the symposium

The field of study of the symposium bears on two topics that are closely linked: the material culture and the visual culture. First it aims to study the reigning princes and sovereigns’ sartorial culture through the clothes themselves, as they have been kept in museums, or/and through the inventories, accounts of wardrobes and bills. It also aims to study the various iconographical representations of princes and courtiers. They contribute to the construction of a of an elites’ sartorial visual culture whose place should be assessed in the increase in the number of fashion plates from the early modern era.
These topics will continue until our present-day so we can study the dress at court or more widely the old luxurious clothes through the fashion and the visual culture of the stage (theatre, opera), cinema or television.

The project rests on the participation of international scholars working in different fields, from the history of dress, economic and social history, history of art, fashion studies and stage and movies studies, etc. Its aims is also to bring together different jobs and trades working on dress and costume: researchers, curators, costumers and fashion designers.

The symposium looks at three topics:

• The reigning princes' and sovereigns' wardrobes in Europe (1400-1815)
- The contents of the wardrobes: case studies (styles, textiles and colours, the distinction between public and private use, between male and female wardrobes, etc); their economic value
- The present state of our knowledge on the royal and princely wardrobes in the different courts of Europe; historiographical approaches and research prospects
• The pictures of the way of dressing at courts in Europe (1400-1815)
- The sartorial court cultures through the iconographical representations: aristocratic portraits, scenes of life at the court, fashion prints, etc.
- The contributions and the limits of these sources for the knowledge of the sartorial court cultures in Europe

• The court dress put on stage: stage, screen, podium (20th-21st c.)
- To create the court costume for the stage and the show: craft, techniques; relationships between the costumer, the director, the scriptwriter or/and the historical adviser and the history of costume
- The use of the court dress at stage, at screen and in the historical television series: reconstruction or creation?
- The court dress and the fashion podiums: influences of the court attire on the fashion design in Couture