chapter  6
20 Pages

La Moda and its Technologies: Agostino Lampugnani’s La Carrozza da nolo, ovvero del vestire e usanze alla moda (The rented carriage or of clothing and fashionable habits, 1648–1650)

In Agostino Lampugnani’s La Carrozza da nolo, ovvero del vestire e usanze alla moda (The rented carriage or of clothing and fashionable habits), la Moda is treated in a satirical way, repeatedly figured as a lie, an infection and a contagious disease such as the plague (Figure 47).1 Lampugnani was far from alone in seeing fashion this way. Already at his disposal, in fact, was an array of figurative language that treated fashion as a contagious disease. At the end of the sixteenth century, in his Anatomie of Abuses (1583), Philip Stubbes had wondered if fashion, “this contagious infection,” as he calls it, had spread beyond England.2 The common concern in the discourse of the time about the contagious property of fashion had a number of key elements that are well worth dwelling on. The contagiousness of fashion brings to the fore the desire to conform and imitate what is perceived as attractive and beautiful. At the same time, the figure of contagion speaks to the gradual but constant growth in the circulation of goods and economic expansion to markets in the ever more tangible realities beyond Europe. The economic historian Marco Belfanti entitles a chapter of his book La civiltà della moda, in which he studies fashion in seventeenth-and eighteenth-century society, “Epidemiologia della moda” (Epidemiology of fashion), to underscore how pervasive fashion had become by this time. Belfanti refers to a study by Dan Sperber, who identifies in fashion trends typical of the cultures of modernity: the way it spreads to

an entire population is comparable to the spread of epidemics.