Catwalk – Fashion in the Rijksmuseum

When the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam announced that they were organizing a fashion exhibition this year it immediately made me very happy and curious. I’d seen some of their pieces, and some photo’s of others, but a lot of it hadn’t been photographed or exhibited. So finally a chance to see some of their collection! The exhibition is called ‘Catwalk’ and ranges fashion from the 17th century to the 1960’s. The whole thing was designed by Erwin Olaf, a Dutch photographer. He also made some of the publicity shots and a short movie clip showing the changes in silhouette over the years (my only wish was that it’d been in chronological order…). Both can be seen here: https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/catwalk .

Last Easter weekend I finally had a chance to visit. We went very early, because the Rijksmuseum can be extremely busy especially on holidays. Turned out to be a good choice, when we arrived at 9:30 it wasn’t quiet, but still doable. When we left around 13:30 the crowds had gathered. We went through the entire exhibition twice, and on the second round I also took the chance to make some photo’s (at the bottom of this post). The lighting wasn’t perfect, but I think I still managed to get some okay photo’s of details.

All in all, I really liked the exhibition. It was very well set up, with a some of the pieces even moving along a catwalk. Where possible, the dresses were displayed without glass and viewable from every side, which is always a big plus for me. The rooms were organized by theme. The first was children’s clothing, with one 1850’s dress surrounded by moving children’s clothing. In addition, there were sounds of children’s play in the background, to really bring it to life. The second room was for the old pieces, 16th century to halfway 17th century. Including one of the only existing 17th century underpants. The third room was the catwalk, with 20th century fashion 1900 to 1950’s moving around. They’d put up chairs around the catwalk and a booklet so you could read about the pieces as they moved by. The third room showed the changes in silhouette, from the constraints of the 18th and 19th centuries to the 1960’s as era of freedom. The fourth room was about details, with spots lighting out specific details in dresses. The final room consisted of the show-pieces, several gorgeous dresses between 1750 and 1820 worn for special occasions and weddings. The top-piece was a 18th century wedding dress which is 2 meters wide. Especially the embroidery was absolutely gorgeous. I’d seen it in all the promo shots and thought it actually looked a bit plain because there’s barely any trimming on the dress. But seeing the thing in real-life completely changed my mind. The embroidery is so stunning, and the colors so well preserved that it’s definitely more impressive up close.

Some of my favorite pieces are below, with the official high-quality shots (you can find them in full (big!) size on the website of the Rijksmuseum) and my additional photo’s. (Reduced size to save space, but if you’re interested in the full-size image just send me a message!)

One of the oldest pieces, dress with Watteau pleats of sild, embroidered with flower and leaf motives, ca 1740-1745 (link: https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/nl/collectie/BK-1961-90-A)

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The show-stopper, a wedding dress with train, 2 meters wide, 1750-1760. The dress was worn by Helena Slicher in 1759. Interesting is that it combines various court-fashions. The bodice with ‘tail’ follows the English court fashion (manteau), while the separate train is mostly seen on the European mainland. (link: https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/nl/collectie/BK-1978-247) The dress is deceptively plain, the only trim is on the sleeves, but the embroidery is absolutely gorgeous. I tried to get images of the back, it was standing relatively close to a wall (no walking behind), but the mirror behind made up for a lot. Underneath the sleeve flounces you can see the attachment of the train.

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Robe a la francaise, ca 1765-1775. The width and fabric indicate that this was worn for a formal occasion. The leafs in the silk are woven with gold and silver thread. The petticoat is a tablier, it only fills the front opening of the skirt.

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Redingote, ca 1786-1789, made of silk. I love the color of this garment, and interested in the little flaps which make the over-skirt stand open at the bottom. Never seen that anywhere else. (link: https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/nl/collectie/BK-1978-250)

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Dress of blonde-bobbin lace, 1815-1820. Lace wasn’t very popular after the French revolution, but Napoleaon obligated wearing lace at court in 1804 increasing its popularity. This type of blonde lace is named after the light color, and due to the fragility of the fabric blonde gowns are rare. (link: https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/nl/collectie/BK-NM-14105 )

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Riding costume, ca 1826. (link: https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/nl/collectie/BK-VII-N ). I love the color of this costume, and it was absolutely tiny! (54 cm waist…)

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Dress with silver embroidery, worn at 12,5 year marriage party by  Maria Elisabeth Verwer-Offermans in 1915 (link: http://hdl.handle.net/10934/RM0001.COLLECT.23624)

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6 thoughts on “Catwalk – Fashion in the Rijksmuseum

  1. Thanks so much for this wonderful post. I belong to a genealogical society that has a large women’s and children’s costume collection, including a few 18th century pieces. If you ever come to Boston let me know and we could arrange a visit to our collection.

    Meanwhile, I had a chance to visit the Oscar de la Renta Retrospective at the de Young in San Francisco this past week. It was fabulous.

    Nanny

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    • You’re welcome. I’ll keep that in mind, thank you!
      Seeing pieces in person is always better than on pictures, but I’m still very happy to live in an age where images can be shared so easily. Gives everyone a chance to get a glimpse of exhibitions even if they’re on the other side of the world 🙂

  2. Pingback: A walk through the Rijksmuseum with a camera | bywayofthanks

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