"A pleasurable and illuminating collection that sets out the important implications of accessories and shows how conspicuous consumption and ornamental ostentation aim to secure status and display affiliation. Ornamentalism explains how accessories carry heavily laden symbolic and mnemonic significance, given their age, beauty, and value."
---Richard McCoy, Queens College, Graduate Center, City University of New York
"A wealth of information about fascinating stuff. This well-conceived volume features contributions from the most interesting, influential, and deservedly well-known scholars working in the field of early modern material culture."
---Steven Mullaney, University of Michigan
Renaissance people understood that honor and good graces were marked by being properly attired and by wearing distinctive ornaments. An examination of material life and fashion in the early modern period reveals the crucial role ornaments played in social, political, and cultural negotiations of power and identity. Signs of wealth, possession, and ownership, accessories were wrought from any number of materials, from gold and silver, to pearl, to starch and linen, to metal, to silk, to wax, to bone, to leather, or even human flesh. Accessories could mark or help construct gender; they could be a product of women's work, a symbol of chastity, a sign of good breeding. They could suggest sexual prowess or facilitate seduction, betrothal, and marriage; signal the boundaries between public and private, the conflict between excess and restraint.
Ornamentalism is the first book to focus on Renaissance accessories, their histories and meanings. The collection's eminent contributors bring accessories to the center of a discussion about material culture, dress, and adornment, exploring their use, significance, and multiple lives. Defining an "accessory" in the broadest sense---including scents, veils, handkerchiefs, lingerie, codpieces, dildos, jewels, ruffs, wax seals, busks, shoes, scissors, and even boys---the book provides a rich cultural history that's eclectic and bold, including discussions of bodily functions, personal hygiene, and sexuality.
Lively, well-written, and richly illustrated with 70 color plates, Ornamentalism engages with many current areas of study, including material culture and fashion, manners and morals, gender and sexuality, theater and performance. It will appeal to scholars of the material past and social practice, as well as readers interested in the way earlier fashion trends influence how we dress today.