Textiles: Prehistory to 1700

Online course

+44 (0)20 7942 2000

Join us as we explore the history of textiles. 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.

Learn from our world-class experts wherever you are, whenever suits you: watch lectures live or view the recording later in your own time. You can experience the full breadth and depth of the V&A's collections with more than 40 hours of study over 12 weeks. Learn at your own pace: lecture recordings and study materials, lecture notes, copies of the presentations, and additional study materials are available in our secure Microsoft Teams environment for up to 12 weeks after the course ends, so you'll never miss a thing. And finally, join the conversation: share your perspective with your fellow students, and support each other in your further enquiries outside of class time.

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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 Museum until 2005. With experience of the textile industry in Lancashire and 28 years working with the V&A's textile collection, she has co-authored several popular V&A books and has devised and run highly successful courses on textiles and dress.

Thank you you all for a fascinating twelve weeks. I have learnt so much! Previous V&A Academy student on Jennifer's Birth of Style course

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, this textiles course 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.

  • Guest Speakers include:
    Dr Mary Brooks, University of Durham;
    Benjamin Hinson, Curator, Middle Eastern Collection V&A Asian Department; and independent scholars Dr Alexandra Makin, Dr Gillian White, Frances Pritchard, Lisa Monnas, Jacqueline Simcox and Toni Buckby
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    Online course: Textiles: Prehistory to 1700

    21 September 2023 - 7 December 2023


    Call to book +44 (0)20 7942 2000

    Need help enrolling? Talk to the admissions team:

    +44 (0)20 7942 2000

    Open 10.00 - 13.00, Monday to Sunday (closed 24-26 December)

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