East and West: Textiles and Fashion in Eurasia in the Early Modern Period
Lemire, Beverly & Riello, Giorgio (Department of Economic History London School of Economics)
Working Papers of the Global Economic History Network (GEHN), No. 22/06
What is the origin and essence of fashion? This question has engaged scholars of various disciplines over the past decades, most of whom approach this subject with a Western or European focus. This paper argues instead that Asia was also pivotal in the articulation of the fashion system in Europe. The long interaction between these regions of the world initiated profound changes that included the iteration of the early modern fashion system. Silk and later printed cotton textiles are uniquely important in world history as agents of new consumer tastes, and the embodiment of fashion in Europe. Particular attention is given to the process of the Europeanization of Asian textiles, and the consideration of the intellectual, commercial and aesthetic relationship between Europe and Asia, as the European printed industry developed. Fashion was not just created through the adoption and use of Asian goods, but it was also shaped by a culture in which print was central; and it was the printing of information – visual, as well as literate – along with printing as a productive process, which produced a type of fashionability that could be ‘read’.