Birgitta Helen Persson Swain

Research title: Chinese painted silks: craftmanship and fashion in the 18th century

Research Summary

Research Summary

My research focuses on Chinese painted silks of the type exported to the West for clothing and furnishing in the eighteenth century and traces their development, global impact and appeal through several case studies. Made by Chinese craftsmen ostensibly for European and American markets, Chinese painted trade silks reflect multiple cultural traditions, ideas and aesthetic preferences, and provide unique insight into the mechanisms of global cultural exchange in the early modern period. The research will explore and highlight the role of Chinese material culture within histories of western fashionable dress, challenging the Eurocentric view of fashion as a western phenomenon.

Research Interests

  • Chinese trade textiles.
  • Fashion and furnishings in 18th century Europe and America.
  • The role of Chinese trade textiles in shaping ideas about China, and creating identities.

Additional Information


  • Board member International Association of the Study of Silk Road Textiles
  • Elected member the Costume Society (UK)
  • Board member The Agnes Geijer Foundation for Nordic Textile Research