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Conference: Fashion at the Periphery

October 9 @ 12:00 pm October 11 @ 12:00 pm UTC-4

Defining Fashion from the Periphery: The Case of Late-Colonial Spanish America

Fashion has often been defined as a modern, Western phenomenon. This has relegated the study of fashion in regions like the Spanish colonies in the Americas to the peripheries of fashion history and fashion studies; attributing the word “fashion” to Spanish colonial dress and customs becomes, under this point of view, a definitive misnomer. Yet the colonial inhabitants of Spanish America lived and experienced fashion in a variety of ways. Building on studies that have sought to rescue the idea of fashion in the early modern world and throughout the globe, this paper makes a case for the use of “fashion” in the study of late-colonial dress, manners, and the broader culture of appearances. Using commercial records, court cases, travel chronicles, and other archival documents from the Viceroyalty of New Granada, this paper brings light to the phenomenon of fashion as it was experienced by colonials in the second half of the eighteenth century. Not entirely contrary to contemporary ideas about fashion in Europe, fashion in the Spanish American colony was seen with ambivalence and sparked great debate. In the late-colonial context, however, it was additionally colored by the local anxieties brought about by miscegenation, social disorder, the increasingly strong indigenous presence, and the impending fall of the empire.

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