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Mariana Moreira Lima

MA work

The Sculpted Body: Connecting Late Sixteenth-century Tailoring and Technological Innovation

The sixteenth century was a period of profound changes in fashionable dress, in which the body was reshaped to increasing extremes. This dissertation explores the connections between the development of sculptural garments in the late sixteenth century and technological innovation. Understanding garments as material objects, it looks beyond the symbolic readings of dress that are often used to explain change in this period, and interrogates developments from a material point of view. It does so by investigating both the materials and skills needed to create these sculptural garments. 

Divided in two chapters, it first focuses on developments within the tailoring trade, investigating technological changes relating to how tailors shaped cloth, asking what drove these innovations, and how they impacted on the way tailors were perceived by the sixteenth century. The first chapter explores how tailors fitted into the broader context of artisans in sixteenth-century Europe, and how they navigated issues experienced by artisans at the time. It also discusses how these changes allowed tailors to negotiate matters such as honour, skill, and status. The second chapter looks at the impact that agents outside of the tailoring trade had on late-sixteenth century dress, using as a starting point the materials used to make garments. The chapter uses three materials - baleen, metal, and cork - as case studies to examine how industries not traditionally associated with dress impacted on its development. The chapter investigates how these external forces impacted on innovation, discussing the role of the state, the motivation behind the introduction of new industries in England, and their impact on the development of dress. 

The dissertation argues that the industries responsible for supplying these materials in England were established as part of an effort by the Elizabethan government to attain self-sufficiency at a politically unstable time, and that while not driven by fashion, these industries had an enormous impact on late sixteenth century fashionable dress. Moreover, it argues that the skill required of tailors to create these garments developed over the centuries as part of an effort from tailors to distance their trade from domestic garment production, and that the elaborate, innovative garments created in the period discussed, as well as the incorporation of non-woven materials, was part of a broader effort by tailors to raise the status of their craft.


  • MA Degree


    School of Arts & Humanities


    MA History of Design, 2018

  • Mariana is a design historian with a background in fashion. Having worked as a pattern cutter for over ten years, her practical involvement with garment making triggered her interest in the techniques that have been used to make garments over time, how they developed, and how they can be applied to contemporary practice. 

  • Degrees

  • PG Cert Creative Pattern Cutting, London College of Fashion, 2012; BA Fashion, Veiga de Almeida University/Instituto Zuzu Angel, 2007