Textiles: Prehistory to 1700

Online course

+44 (0)20 7942 2000

Using archaeological fragments and more recent textiles and paintings, we will learn how technologies and designs developed and how textiles have been used as symbols of wealth and prestige.

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course photo
Portrait of Course Director Jennifer Wearden

Course Director
Jennifer Wearden

Jennifer Wearden was Senior Curator of Textiles in the Department of Furniture, Textiles & Fashion until 2005. With experience of the textile industry in Lancashire and 28 years working with the textile collection in the V&A, she has co-authored several popular V&A books and has devised and run highly successful courses on textiles and dress

V&A courses have been a lifeline through lockdown, and now beyond it. So many different paths to follow from recommendations from Jennifer or fellow students. I cannot thank you enough. V&A Academy Online Student - Silk course, Spring 2022

Course overview

Textiles are very fragile and although they may once have been fabrics of great beauty, they do not last. However, with the development of archaeology and where favourable conditions have allowed cloth to survive, we can learn a lot about the textile skills of our ancestors and what they were weaving, embroidering and wearing.
After an introduction to fibres, structures and dyes we will explore archaeological textiles from Asia, the Mediterranean, Northern Europe and South America and see how technologies and designs developed and spread. Moving into the Middle Ages and then into the 16th and 17th centuries, our knowledge of textiles will increase from a study of paintings and surviving pieces and we will see how textiles were used as furnishings, ecclesiastical vestments and fashionable clothing and how they could be ‘read’ as indicators of wealth, learning and status.


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Online course: Textiles: Prehistory to 1700

22 September 2022 - 8 December 2022


Need help enrolling? Talk to the admissions team:

+44 (0)20 7942 2000

Open 9.30 - 17.30, Monday to Sunday (closed 24-26 December)