A Well-Fashioned Image: Clothing and Costumes in European Art, 1500-1850

October 23, 2001 – April 28, 2002

Fashion—or the question of what to wear and how to wear it—is a centuries-old obsession.

Beyond superficial concerns with personal appearance, the history of dress points to deep preoccupations surrounding the social order, national identity, and moral decency. A Well-Fashioned Image drew on the Smart Museum's collection and a number of loaned works to investigate the symbolic role played by dress in European art from the Renaissance to the mid-nineteenth century. A range of materials, including Renaissance costume books, portraits of nobles and clergy, and images of foreign peoples in exotic garb, revealed the central role costume played in fashioning and advertising the social order.