Sunday, June 16, 2024

Catwalk. Fashion at the Rijksmuseum

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Picture by Erwin Olaf, Model – Ymre Stiekema, Bride dress  1759.

Until 16 May 2016, six galleries of the Philips Wing will be dedicated to fashion of the Dutch from 1625 to 1960. Starting with garments worn by members of the Frisian branch of the house of Nassau in the Golden Age, the exhibits will feature vibrantly coloured French silk gowns and luxurious velvet gentlemen’s suits of the eighteenth century, classically-inspired Empire dresses and bustles of the Fin de Siècle culminating in twentieth-century French haute couture by Dior and Yves Saint Laurent.

Rijksmuseum Fashion Collection

The Rijksmuseum’s fashion collection totals some 10,000 items , with men’s, women’s and children’s attire and accessories spanning the period from 1700 until 1960. In addition, the History Department owns the earliest Dutch costumes, worn in the seventeenth century by the Frisian branch of the Nassau family and by the Stadtholder and British co-monarch King William III.

Catwalk. Picture by Carola van Wijk.
Catwalk. Picture by Carola van Wijk.

Being the oldest costumes collection in the country, having begun in 1870, acquisitions initially emphasized on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but over time gradually expanded to include the first half of the twentieth century.

All of the garments comes from the wardrobes of upper-class Dutch men and women, but they were not necessarily made in the Netherlands.

Foreign fashion houses and fabrics from all the leading textile-manufacturing countries around the world are amply represented. Acquisitions for the collection are based on historical significance, such as a post-war dress made of silk RAF pilots maps; design relevance, such as Yves Saint Laurent’s 1965 ‘Mondrian dress’; and costume-historical importance, such as a silk taffeta cocktail gown by Cristóbal Balenciaga (1951-1952). Most items were donated or bequethed, supplemented with purchases.


A few highlights of Catwalk:

– A unique pair of underpants belonging to Hendrik Casimir I, Count of Nassau-Dietz (1612-1640)

– The widest dress in the Netherlands: Helena Slicher’s (1737-1776) wedding gown or mantua, which she supposedly wore at her marriage to Aelbrecht baron van Slingelandt (1732-1801) on 4 September 1759

– An exceptionally precious and fragile dress of blonde silk bobbin lace (1815-1820)

– A silk taffeta cocktail dress by Cristóbal Balenciaga (1951-1952)

 For additional information:



Text and pictures by Rijksmuseum, Press Office 



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