Please note! Course description is confirmed for two academic years, which means that in general, e.g. Learning outcomes, assessment methods and key content stays unchanged. However, via course syllabus, it is possible to specify or change the course execution in each realization of the course, such as how the contact sessions are organized, assessment methods weighted or materials used.


The principal aim of this material culture and dress history course is to study some of the key historical developments of colour in textiles and fashion in the early modern period. After the succesful completion of the course, the student will understand some of the tways in which colours were used in dress and fashion; have knoweldge of  the complex economic, social and cultural meanings associated with colours and natural dyes; and obtain new knowledge about materials and making, colour innovation, and the trade of dye stuffs in Europe in the first global age. 


Credits: 3

Schedule: 13.01.2025 - 10.02.2025

Teacher in charge (valid for whole curriculum period):

Teacher in charge (applies in this implementation): Paula Hohti

Contact information for the course (applies in this implementation):

CEFR level (valid for whole curriculum period):

Language of instruction and studies (applies in this implementation):

Teaching language: English. Languages of study attainment: English


  • valid for whole curriculum period:

    Colour was an essential element in early modern European fashion. The importance of colour was based not only on its aesthetic or symbolic significance, but it was also linked to the fact that producing some colours and achieving perfect tones was an expensive and complicated procedure. In addition to the costly process of obtaining dyes, transferring the raw material into colour required skill and specialized knowledge about how the dyestuffs reacted with different chemicals and fabrics.

    This course introduces students to the history of colours, natural dyes and dye practices in connection with early modern dress and fashion. It focuses on the making and meaning of colours in dress during a period (c. 1500-1750) of significant interest in material and aesthetic experimentation and intensified global trade in textiles and dye stuffs. The specific seminar topics include the use of colour in fashion; the meanings and value of colours in dress and their connections with wealth and power; dyers, dye stuffs and dye practices; the availability of colour recipes; and the processes of making of colours. The course involves both lectures as well as material hands-on experimentation with colours and natural dyes in a lab setting.

Assessment Methods and Criteria
  • valid for whole curriculum period:

    1. Weekly writing assignment (20%)
    2. Final assignment, which includes a written and a visual/material component (80%)

    Successful completion of the course requires minimun 80% class attendance. 

  • valid for whole curriculum period:

    The course consists of lectures, seminar discussions, and material experiments.

    During the course, we will work with images, texts, printed primary sources, and textile and dye materials. The visual, material, and written evidence is examined in a broad interdisciplinary context, including making, in order to provide students with a methodological introduction of how to interpret and obtain new knowledge of the history of colours and dyes from a range of sources.

    24h contact teaching / 57h independent working


Study Material
  • valid for whole curriculum period:

    A selection of literature, primary sources and textile materials will be provided to the participants. Students may be requested to bring small samples of materials of their choice for experiments.

Substitutes for Courses
SDG: Sustainable Development Goals

    12 Responsible Production and Consumption


Further Information
  • valid for whole curriculum period:

    Teaching Language: English

    Teaching Period: 2024-2025 Spring III
    2025-2026 Spring III


    The minimum amount of participants is 8, and the maximum is 15.

    Priority order to courses is according to the order of priority decided by the Academic committee for School of Arts, Design and Architecture, https//

    If there are more applicants than available seats, SISU conducts a raffle to allocate seats. In the event of a raffle, the remaining students are placed on a waiting list in numerical order. On the first day of the course, these students may check for available seats in case any of the selected students do not show up. Any available seats are then filled in numerical order.