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Clothing’s Impact on the Body in Italy and England, 1550–1650
Elizabeth Currie

Studies of early modern dress frequently focus on its connection with status and identity, overlooking clothing’s primary function, namely to protect the body and promote good health. The daily processes of dressing and undressing carried numerous considerations: for example, were vital areas of the body sufficiently covered, in the correct fabrics and colours, in order to maintain an ideal body temperature? The health benefits of clothing were countered by the many dangers it carried, such as toxic dyes, garments that were either too tight or voluminous, or harboured dirt and diseases that could infect the body. This article draws on medical treatises and health manuals printed and read in Italy and England, as well as personal correspondence and diaries, contextualised with visual evidence of the styles described. It builds on the current, wider interest in preventative medicine, humoral theory, health and the body in the early modern period by focusing in depth on the role of clothing within these debates.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library