Mask, Protection and Elegance. A Lecture by Denis Bruna

Lectures  /  CriticalThinking  /  20 Nov 2021
Published: 18.11.2021

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In order to limit the risks of spreading Covid-19, we were all obliged to wear a mask. In some countries, such as France, the difficulty of obtaining surgical masks at the beginning of the pandemic led to the homemade production of cloth masks.

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When masks became readily available, shops, museum shops, and many websites offered masks made from fabrics with various colours and patterns to contrast with the uniformity and sad appearance of blue masks. For a person concerned with elegance, the surgical mask does not fit with a smart suit or evening gown. Fashion designers, "maison de mode" and artists have turned the mask from an indispensable object into a fashion accessory. Indeed, from the 16th century onwards, paintings and engravings show women using black velvet masks to protect their complexion from sunburn or to protect their privacy. Some chroniclers even said that the black of the velvet made the neck appear whiter. This paper will not only trace the history of the mask but will also examine the combined notions of protection and elegance.

When: 20 November, Saturday, 3 pm.

Denis Bruna (Aubagne, 1967) is a doctor of history at Université de Paris-I Panthéon-Sorbonne and a research director and he joined the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris as chief curator of the pre-19th-century Fashion and Textile collections in 2011. He is also professor in the history of fashion and costume at the Ecole du Louvre. His research has focussed on the history and iconography of fashion, vestimentary customs and the body. His publications include Piercing, sur les traces d’une infamie médiévale (Textuel, 2001), Bijoux oubliés du Moyen Âge (Seuil, 2008) and Histoire des modes et du vêtement du Moyen Âge au XXIe siècle (2018). At the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, he curated “La Mécanique des dessous, une histoire indiscrète de la silhouette” in 2013, « Tenue correcte exigée, quand le vêtement fait scandale » (2016) and « Marche et démarche, une histoire de la chaussure