Professor Barbara Vinken
‘Camouflage and Menswear’

Dr Camilla Annerfeldt
‘A Paradise for Impostors? Clothing and Identity in Early Modern Rome’

Prof. Andrew Groves, Director of the Westminster Menswear Archive. He will speak about

Camouflage and Menswear

Camouflage is the use of any combination of materials, colouration, or illumination for concealment, either by making objects hard to see (crypsis) or by disguising them as something else (mimesis). A third approach, motion dazzle, confuses the observer with a striking pattern, making the object visible but briefly harder to locate. The use of the word camouflage dates to 1916 deriving from the French word camoufler (to disguise). Its initial use in the military was to conceal vehicles and weapons, and it was not until later that it was incorporated into uniforms. The proliferation of camouflage patterns developed for military and sporting activities has led to the designs being grouped by type and include Brushstroke, Chocolate Chip, Digital Patterns, DPM, Duck Hunter, Flecktarn, Leaf, Lizard, Puzzle, Rain, Splinter, Tigerstripe, and Woodland.

As a result of its development and use in the military, camouflage has strong associations with representations of aggressive masculinities. Its use in civilian men’s clothing has allowed the incorporation of substantial amounts of colour and pattern in menswear by appropriating these associations. As such, it functions as a form of dandyism that allows the wearer to simultaneously be invisible and visible. Using examples from the Westminster Menswear Archive’s collection this presentation will reflect on these varied functions, including a wide range of both utilitarian and conceptual camouflage designs.

Our second speaker will be Dr Camilla Annerfeldt, postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Swedish Institute of Classical Studies in Rome:

A Paradise for Impostors? Clothing and Identity in Early Modern Rome

In early modern Rome, social identity was regarded as much more important than the individual, and clothing has therefore often been seen as a manifestation of the social order. The social hierarchy was reflected in hierarchies of appearance, in which clothes constructed the social body. Accordingly, what one wore should mark prescribed identities – of gender, age, marital status, rank, and nationality – as well as signal one’s profession and political allegiances.

Yet, the clothes one wore could also create a desired identity. Clothes functioned as an alternative currency. Garments were repaired and remade, circulated as perquisites, wages, gifts, or bequests, or were pawned, or sold on the second-hand market if the necessity arose. This constant circulation of clothes could thus create confusion within the hierarchies of appearance; by acquiring clothes otherwise out of reach of one’s socio-economic range, the wearers were enabled to ‘appear what they would be’ rather than as they were.

In this paper, I will describe how clothing was used by the members of Rome’s different socio-economic classes as a token to accentuate – or mislead – their social standing. Moreover, as this paper will explore in greater depth, it could be argued that in terms of the ‘rigid’ rules regarding early modern dress, Rome offered a kind of middle ground – neither too strict nor too lenient. There can be no doubt that Rome was extremely hierarchical, but the notion – well-established in dress historical research – that one was supposed to dress solely according to one’s social station does not always seem to have been applicable to Roman society. By highlighting some of the ways in which Rome differed from other Italian cities both politically and socially, this paper seeks to elucidate if early modern Rome could be regarded as a paradise for impostors.

Image: Abbott Handerson Thayer, Richard S. Meryman, Peacock in the Woods, study for book Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom, 1907, oil on canvas, 45 1⁄4 x 36 3⁄8 in. (114.9 x 92.4 cm.), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the heirs of Abbott Handerson Thayer, 1950.2.11