The Rijksmuseum Shows Its Vast Fashion Collection for the First Time

The exhibition has been designed by photographer Erwin Olaf.

The model Ymre Stiekema wearing a 1759 wedding dress. Photo: Erwin Olaf, Courtesy Rijksmuseum.
The model Ymre Stiekema wearing a 1759 wedding dress. Photo: Erwin Olaf, Courtesy Rijksmuseum.
Installation view of Catwalk at the Rijksmuseum.<br>Photo: Carola van Wijk, Courtesy Rijksmuseum.

Installation view of “Catwalk” at the Rijksmuseum.
Photo: Carola van Wijk, Courtesy Rijksmuseum.

The world of fashion keeps asserting its power in the museum sphere, and the latest institution to have succumbed to couture’s charms is the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, which has launched an exhibition showcasing select items from its broad fashion collection for the very first time.

Entitled “Catwalk” and designed by the renowned Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf, the exhibition, sprawled across six of the museum’s galleries, gathers items worn by the Dutch from 1625 to 1960. The journey begins with garments that were produced during the Dutch Golden Age and culminates with examples of 20th century French haute couture by the likes of Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent.

The model Ymre Stiekema wearing a 1759 wedding dress.<br>Photo: Erwin Olaf, Courtesy Rijksmuseum.

The model Ymre Stiekema wearing a 1759 wedding dress.
Photo: Erwin Olaf, Courtesy Rijksmuseum.

“The challenge and honour of designing this exhibition, ‘Catwalk,’ for the most extraordinary museum in the Netherlands came at exactly the right moment for me,” Olaf said in a sattement. “For several years now I’ve been exploring alternative ways to present my photographic work and to integrate it in installations, sound, video, and films as means to immerse viewers in a world that fires and challenges their personal imaginations and, ultimately, sparks a stimulating dialogue between the viewer and the work on view,” the photographer, and now also exhibition designer, explained.

Helena Slicher’s wedding gown or mantua, which she supposedly wore at her marriage to Aelbrecht baron van Slingelandt on September 4 1759.<br>Photo: Courtesy Rijksmuseum.

Helena Slicher’s wedding gown, which she supposedly wore at her marriage to Aelbrecht baron van Slingelandt on September 4, 1759.
Photo: Courtesy Rijksmuseum.

“The garments presented in this exhibition reflect the stories of the people who wore them,” said Bianca du Mortier, curator of costumes at the museum. “In fashion, the choices of the wearer count—they make him or her a trendsetter or a follower. Even today the clothes of the very rich and powerful always convey a conscious or unconscious message. In that respect, nothing has changed over the last 330 years,” she added.

The Rijksmuseum’s fashion collection gathers a total of over 10,000 items. Begun in 1870, it is the oldest costumes collection in the country and features garments coming from the wardrobes of upper-class Dutch men and women, although not necessarily made in the Netherlands. Most items were donated or bequeathed to the museum, while others have been acquired to bolster the cultural relevance of the collection.

Installation view of “Catwalk” at the Rijksmuseum, featuring a 1952 dress with matching jacket by Christian Dior.<br>Photo: Erwin Olaf, Courtesy Rijksmuseum.

Installation view of “Catwalk” at the Rijksmuseum, featuring a 1952 dress with matching jacket by Christian Dior.
Photo: Erwin Olaf, Courtesy Rijksmuseum.

Erwin Olaf, Cocktail dress, Cristóbal Balenciaga (1951-1952).Image: Courtesy Rijksmuseum photographer Carola Van Wijk.

Erwin Olaf, Cocktail dress, Cristóbal Balenciaga (1951-1952).
Image: Courtesy Rijksmuseum photographer Carola Van Wijk.

Image: Courtesy Rijksmuseum photographer Carola Van Wijk.

Image: Courtesy Rijksmuseum photographer Carola Van Wijk.

Catwalk” is on view at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, from February 20- May 16, 2016.


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