The Flow of Fashion: The Role of Peddlers in the Diffusion of Trends in Renaissance Italy
Stefania Montemezzo is an economic and social historian whose research interests focus on the Renaissance Italian economies and societies. Her primary research areas are the late medieval long-distance trade -regarding the Venetian maritime networks and the conflict resolution practices- and, more recently, the material culture of Renaissance Italy -concerning the consumption habits of the lower social groups. She received her Ph.D. in Economic History from the University of Verona. She later worked as Research Fellow at the University of Bologna (2014-17), the Aalto University of Helsinki (2017-19), and the University of Padua (2020-22). She enjoys running, hiking, and motorcycling across Europe when not conducting research.
In the pre-industrial period, the stratification of society influenced the cultural models and the consumption of fashionable garments. The project addresses the issue of the consumption and diffusion of stylish objects among the rural population thanks to a source scarcely used in this field of study: account books. The rare unpublished 16th c. journal of a Tuscan peddler, Alessandro Vignarchi, will make it possible to answer questions related to the mobility of vendors in non-urban areas and their role in the spread of fashion and cheap copies of expensive items, Populuxe, among the local society. Using the peddler's journal, the project details rural consumption habits and the role of street vendors in the development and diffusion of trends and fashionable garments in non-urban areas. The project uses the Casentino Valley in the Apennines as a case study. This territory welcomed agriculture, pastoralism, and manufacturing activities, producing grey woolen clothes in its villages. The research analyzes the fashion items–in the sense of expensive textiles and cheaper imitations to be worn by lower social groups–used as ornaments and decorations, their composition, and their origin in the peddler's books. Moreover, it will reconstruct the social networks that characterized the Vignarchi family's activity to pinpoint the focal points of their activity, their connections with urban traders, and their links with local fashion creators (tailors).