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“Where the garment gapes”: Embodied Masculinity and the Contours of Fashion in Renaissance Italy

Date and Time: 
Thursday, January 30, 2020. 06:00 PM - 08:00 PM
Meeting Location: 
Humanities Center Boardroom
Workshop: 
Reframing Fashion Studies: Performance, Gender, and the Body
Meeting Description: 

Bodies are both concealed and revealed by clothes, and the tight, masculine silhouette of fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Europe – made possible by buttons and innovations in tailoring – created and reflected new ways of dressing, seeing, and idealizing the male body. Timothy McCall's paper explores masculine garments in Italy that shaped wearers’ understanding of their bodies. Ideal silhouettes were formed by taut, close-fitting hose (calze), narrow, tightly-buttoned doublets, and short tunics. Seductive, culturally-legible legs of the fifteenth century manifested specifically male beauty, their form revealed and accentuated by calze. Crucial here is a sustained consideration of the dynamics between active bodies and moving clothes – how they hold tight or hang loose, but so too where they end, overlap, stretch, cleave, or fray. McCall explores Roland Barthes’s perceptive insight that “the most erotic portion of the body [is] where the garment gapes...it is this flash which seduces," referring to “skin flashing between two articles of clothing…between two edges,” though these pleasures would be all the more resonant if skin actually was seen, given the extent to which it was concealed by aristocratic dress.

Timothy McCall is associate professor of art history, and director of the Art History Program at Villanova University. Tim’s research centers on Italian Renaissance art, and on visual intersections of power and gender (particularly masculinity) more broadly, in addition to histories of fashion and material culture. Tim’s journal articles have appeared in Renaissance Quarterly, Renaissance Studies, Studies in Iconography, and I Tatti Studies, and together with Sean Roberts and Giancarlo Fiorenza, he co-edited Visual Cultures of Secrecy in Early Modern Europe (2013). McCall’s forthcoming book Brilliant Bodies investigates the clothing, adornment, and bodies of men in fifteenth-century Italian courts; book manuscripts in progress include Making the Renaissance Man and Matters of Renaissance Fashion. McCall has been a fellow at Villa I Tatti and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and most recently he was a Gilbert Fellow at the University of Sydney's Social Sciences and Humanities Advanced Research Center (SSSHARC).

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