Critical Writing Award 2016


Bethany Pleydell

Bristol University

Mapping the Renaissance Body: English attitudes to Spanish National Dress in C16th


Emerging from Bethany’s doctoral research, this paper analyses how and why, at a time when clothing was linked to national identity, English fashion should reflect the dress of rival nation, Spain. Through the study of Port Books, State Papers, Patent and Gift Rolls, wills, costume and textiles, this paper illustrates that, despite successive embargoes, war and an increasing xenophobia towards Spaniards, an Anglo-Spanish exchange of material goods persevered throughout the reigns of Mary Tudor and Elizabeth I, resulting in a sizeable presence of Spanish garb in the English household. Ultimately, this paper argues that elite English consumers used foreign Spanish fashions to negotiate their own national identities, and cultural anxieties, vis-à-vis the dominant global power of Spain.

The award will enable Bethany to develop her research further by funding various trips to UK costume collections to study, first-hand, extant sixteenth-century garments.

Catherine Harper

Dean, Creative and Cultural Industries (Portsmouth University)

The Stained and Bloodied Cloths of Ireland


My essay uses my practice as a textile and visual artist to locate my country (Northern) Ireland as a bloodied and stained cloth, marked irreversibly by history, conflict and abuse, and bloodied by its own repression and denial of her people’s rights and needs. Weaving a tale through women’s social, cultural and reproductive history I use textile artifacts to articulate a new method for Ireland to make peace with the past. The award will allow me to visit the Museum of Free Derry to carry out further object analysis on textiles there – a handkerchief, infant’s sleep suit, a man’s coat – that were present at and marked by the violence of Bloody Sunday in Derry, 1972.