The Study of Costume as an aid to dating of Italian Renaissance Paintings
By Stella Mary Pearce
The Bulletin of the Needle and Bobbin Club, Vol. 37 (1953)
Introduction: The study of costume of the past is not a study which can be picked up for the sake of dating a painting and then dropped. It demands the same detailed research, background knowledge, and acute observation, combined with imaginative insight, that are essential to the study of art history. It cannot be undertaken without a specialised training, nor can it be successfully carried out except by those who are sensitive to clothes; nor can it be successfully carried out except by those who are sensitive to clothes; and it involves the devotion of as many lifetimes of work as are involved in the study of art history. Furthermore, the study of the history of costume is only just beginning.
Many an art-historian, unable to date the painting which is the object of his investigation on documentary or stylistic grounds, has attempted to arrive at a date from the evidence of costume, but there are also those who refuse to admit the significant of design in clothes, and regard changes of fashion as being arbitrary and illogical and painters as being free to escape from the Zeitgiest as it is expressed in dress. Until the history of costume has been worked over with the same thoroughness and scientific care as is nowadays directed to the history of art, the art-historian can be neither helped nor converted by the historian of clothes.