The dresses of the Monsampolo's mummies

A few days ago I visited the Crypt Museum in Monsampolo del Tronto, a small village in the Ascoli Piceno’s hinterland; the Marche region is full of these villages located on the hill, surrounded by medieval walls, and they are very similar in structure but often it happens that everyone then hides a particularity that distinguishes it from the others. Monsampolo has precisely this Museum, built in the crypt of the Church of Maria S.S. Assunta after the discovery, during the restoration work due to the earthquake of 1997, of 20 mummified human bodies dating back to the ‘700 /’ 800.

But what does eco-fashion have to do with all this? It has to do with it, especially if we consider it as something that has not been born overnight but has its roots in distant times, when our ancestors used healthier and more natural fabrics and dyes than those which, with the advent of industry and mass production, have invaded modern markets and even our wardrobe. And times in which taking care of one’s own dress was a priority, to make it last as long as possible, making changes also due to changes in fashion and not just to practical needs.

The Monsampolo’s mummies were found wearing their clothes, simple clothes, in some cases poor, evidence of a modest life and of the manual work with which the clothes were produced, starting from the fabrics, obtained from plants that the same hands could have sown and / or collected. Hemp, linen and even broom constituted the raw material, harvested and then processed to obtain a fiber that could be spun on the homemade loom; from there other hours of work to wave the canvas that, in some cases, could have been dyed, up to the cut and sewing to make the dress that had to last as long as possible and that over time was modified and changed.

One of the dress of the mummies. The linen dress has been re-created

It is most likely that the dress of the dead was the ‘celebrating clothes’, certainly simple but not devoid of naive but refined details: “the fold on the hips that horizontally cuts the vertical ones gathered at the waist, the colored silk ribbon applied on the seams of the bodice to emphasize the structure, giving more impetus to the figure, traces of the desire to be fashionable “. Other times that could be the only dress possessed, full of patches and repairs, the last and also the only one dress, a precious commodity to be taken care of, right to the end of one’s own days.

The beautiful book created ad hoc, ‘The Last Wearing – the clothes of the mummies of Monsampolo del Tronto’, by Thessy Schoenholzer Nichols, Valeria David and Emanuela Micucci, published by the Municipality of Monsampolo, shows and tells the reconstruction done to trace the structure of the garments, a meticulous research and reproduction that bring to light the nature of the materials, the sewing and dyeing techniques, the style, in an intersection of sociological, cultural, anthropological and historical aspects.

As I said before, hemp, linen, broom, then natural fibers, were the result of local and household productions; where in fact there were the minimum conditions of cultivation of plants, they were sown because they were used for fabrics but also for ropes. The broom, for me a real surprise that it was textile fiber, was instead spontaneously growing but its processing was much more laborious than that of linen and hemp.

Some fabrics were also dyed using the woad, a plant that grows a little everywhere, of Middle Eastern origin but spread in Europe already in remote times, perhaps thanks to man and used immediately for dye purposes; in fact, blue is its main pigment and one of the clothes at the Museum is indigo-colored and it is also the one that impressed me most because that blue combined with the raw material looked like denim! But how further ahead were these farmers from the Marche of the Tronto valley?

So for those who are in the area I highly recommend visiting this small museum with its mummies and their clothes that reveal stories of life lived, “of past people who have left no signs or memories in the official historiography but whose discovery restores to them this labile identity and let us know the concreteness of the person “. And that also teach us the love we should have for our clothes, a lesson that we find for example in ‘Loved Clothes Last‘, Fashion Revolution’s fanzine # 2, about the care we have to give to our clothes to make them last a long time avoiding useless waste.


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