– Closing Remarks CCI

Given by Susan North (Victoria & Albert Museum, London)
9 November 2008

In Cristina Piacenti’s absence, and on behalf of the Advisory Committee, I have been asked to give some closing remarks.  Fortunately, the plural, closing remarks, was emphasized, otherwise I would just have said ‘WOW!’  and left it at that.

I draw your attention to the back page of the colloquium schedule which indicates all of the institutions and individuals who have assisted with this event.  I’m not going to recite them all, but I would like to make a few special ‘thank yous’.   I start with sincere thanks to the Association Friends of the Galleria del Costume and to the Romualdo del Bianco Foundation whose support made the Costume Colloquium possible, particularly Paolo del Bianco, and Carlotta, whose enthusiasm and energy proved so contagious and indispensable to the project.

Thanks especially to Mary Westerman Bulgarella, whose affection and admiration for Janet inspired the planning. An enormous amount of effort and care went into creating and carrying out this event.  Thanks to all the museums in Florence and Pisa – Ferragamo, Stibbert, the Palazzo Pitti, the Palazzo Vecchio, the Palazzo Reale and the Cerratelli Foundation – who opened their doors to us after hours, welcomed us, fed us and gave us very generous gifts.

Many thanks to Daniela Roselli, the quiet, efficient person behind the organization of this event, for many months prior and all during the Colloquium. Daniela was ably assisted by Dana Pesova and her team of young men and women who oversaw the technology and logistics, ensuring that all flowed seamlessly and that all 315 of us were in the right place at the right time.

And finally, thanks to the translators, Monica Carbone and Sergio Allioni, who coped so admirably with our strange terminology and hastily delivered papers.

Unlike many involved with this Colloquium, I didn’t know Janet Arnold personally, but I would like to think that she would have had a grand time here.  She would have been fascinated and excited, as we are, by the new archaeological dress finds in the Medici tombs and elsewhere and the amazing technology now available to preserve them.  Janet would have been very pleased to hear, as we are, about the latest projects and activities with dress collections here in Italy and the chance to meet and exchange ideas with Italian curators.

Janet loved the theatre and she was very supportive of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. She would have been delighted by the growth of costume interpretation and historical re-enactment, and impressed by the level of accuracy in costume that has evolved in these areas over the past decade, as a result of her publications.

As we do, Janet loved couture for its precision and beauty.  She would have rejoiced in the latest fashion designers and how they reinterpret traditional dressmaking techniques.  I think, secretly, she would have loved deconstructionism for its subversion and really clever tailoring.

Janet would have been thrilled to know how carefully, logically and efficiently Linda Newington at Winchester School of Art and Carlotta del Bianco here in Florence have sorted, cataloged and preserved her archives of drawings and slides.  And we are delighted that more of Janet’s work is now available for study.

So many people have progressed in so many different directions with research based on Janet’s work that the field is vast and very specialized.  It is impossible now to be an expert in every aspect of dress history.   On the other hand, one doesn’t need a university degree to contribute to the subject.  Curators and conservators develop hypotheses about how historical dress was made and worn, but we rely on makers and wearers to prove whether these are correct.  The ‘laboratory’ of accurate interpretation and re-enactment can contribute to our knowledge of dress history.  Curators, costumers and conservators – we all continue to be inspired by Janet’s research, using objects, images and texts.

Costume Colloquium has demonstrated how important it is for us all to get together regularly and share our knowledge, experiences and new research, and to seek out the advice of our colleagues.  That we have been able to do so in these days in a city so rich in artistic heritage (not to mention fine cuisine and wine!) has truly been a delight.  And that it is also a city that was so close to Janet’s heart is particularly appropriate.

It remains for me to thank all of you, the delegates, and I know many of you have come very far to be here.  It is your participation that has made this colloquium such a success.  I hope that we’ll all see each other again soon.