Royal and Noble Clothes on the Catwalk

I must admit, I hadn’t been at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam for probably 20 years, and couldn’t even remember anymore what it looked like. After the renovation that was finished three years ago it was really about time to visit again. I didn’t find the time a few weeks ago, but an old friend of mine from the USA was in Amsterdam last week, and she luckily agreed we could go to the museum. Apart from some important paintings by Rembrandt, Frans Hals, a few less interesting Van Goghs, etc. there also was the “Catwalk” exhibition, which I really wanted to see. It is open from 20 February to 16 May 2016. Already the start of it was spectacular.

Six galleries of the Philips Wing have been dedicated to Dutch fashion from 1625 to 1960. I clearly hadn’t really read much about the exhibition, as I immediately noticed the first part of the exhibition showed garments worn by members of the Frisian branche of the House of Nassau in the 17th and 18th century. Amazingly items with bullet holes – the Stadtholders Ernst Casimir I and Hendrik Casimir died on the battlefield – are still being kept.

The exhibition was designed by Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf, who could choose from the fashion collection of the Rijksmuseum, which contains some 10.000 items including attire for men, women and children. Surprisingly some dresses look almost like new and we really loved having a look at the wonderful details like beads, embroidery, lace, silver thread … The newer dresses were nice, but the more historical ones were really amazing. The most impressive piece is without doubt the Mantua dress with train that was worn by Helena Slicher in 1759 when she married Baron Aelbrecht van Slingelandt. This is according to the museum the widest dress – over two metres – in the Netherlands. The pale blue dress was embroidered with flowers, which was apparently considered old-fashioned already at the time, and had modern sleeves with three ruffles. In case you wonder, the ladies who wore such dresses went through a door sideways. Poor men, standing so far away from your wife while you get married.

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