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'The Language of Clothing in the Middle Ages' Lecture

Friday, 18 November, 2016

The Knights of Columbus Vatican Film Library - part of Special Collections in the Saint Louis University Libraries - announces a public lecture by Susan L’Engle, assistant director of the Vatican Film Library, to be held at 3 p.m. Friday, Nov. 18, in Pius XII Memorial Library, second-floor gallery.

The lecture serves as a formal introduction and gallery talk to her recently installed exhibition in this space, “(Re)presenting the Medieval Body: The Role of Clothing and Textiles,” which opened on Oct. 12 and runs through Dec. 31.

The title of the lecture, “The Language of Clothing in the Middle Ages,” more specifically addresses the subject matter of the exhibition, referencing the many ways in which types of clothing and fabrics visually and materially define a person’s social class, economic status, and personal identity. Throughout the history of civilization, the human body has been utilized to express concepts and beliefs and to illustrate current society’s rules, customs and rituals. This takes place not only through gesture and posture (body language), but additionally through what individuals choose or are required to put on their bodies (for modesty, protection or social identification).

The lecture will explore the development of this societal expression in both the secular and ecclesiastical spheres, demonstrating how ideology, authority, power and prestige have been constructed and proclaimed throughout the history of dress. Along the way traditions were established, particularly in professions, that dictated the use of specific garments for certain occasions - and which in fact persist up to the present day.

The lecture is free and open to the public and will be followed by a reception. For further information, contact the Vatican Film Library at 314-977-3090,, or see our blog, Special Collections Currents.

Saint Louis University Libraries Special Collections - Rare Books and the Vatican Film Library - houses the rare book and medieval manuscript studies collections of the University Libraries and provides a laboratory for learning and research that enables students, faculty, and visiting scholars to engage directly with unique, rare, and original materialsVisit Special Collections in Pius XII Memorial Library or online or follow our blog.