From the trailing sleeves and towering headdresses of the High Middle Ages to the ornate, jewel-encrusted ensembles of Elizabethan England and the elaborate turbans of the Mamluk and Ottoman empires, clothing and headgear have captured the imagination of historians for decades. Few, however, have given thought to what lies beneath, which, even while having a functional role, comprises a system of sartorial signs that tell much with respect to social mores and shifting views of the body. This conference aims to explore the evolution of undergarments from the Middle Ages through the early modern era in a variety of contexts, from the material forms of the garments themselves to their symbolic associations and latent meaning. Geographic and temporal reach: global, 500-1750.
Possible topics of discussion include:
Differences and similarities in men’s and women’s undergarments according to class, social status, age, and distinctions between the laity and religious; Changing notions of modesty, comfort, and hygiene and their effects on the under-covering of bodies ; The materiality of undergarments ; The decorative range of undergarments, from the utilitarian to the elaborate, including the use of lace and embroidery ; Underwear as outerwear (the exposure of undergarments through sleeves, necklines, and cutaway skirts; the display of underwear in private spaces; the role of underwear in the public stripping of the body); Shaping the body: the use of undergarments to achieve desired silhouettes; The effects of sumptuary laws on undergarments; The rise of certain industries related to the production of undergarments, including the whaling trade in relation to the rise of the whalebone corset; The erotics of underwear; The myths and realities of the chastity belt ; The representation of underwear in painting, poetry, and song
Proposals for individual papers (20 minutes maximum) should be no more than 500 words in length and may be sent by email, with a current CV if graduate level and a resume if undergraduate, to firstname.lastname@example.org (Re: Undergarment Conference). Those wishing to submit hard copies of the proposal and CV should forward them to: CEMERS (ATTN: Undergarment Conference),