It is a strange thought: dresses, coats and skirts from different centuries stored neatly in archives. No one has seen these items for decades and no one has worn them for perhaps even centuries. For the exposition “Catwalk”, the Rijksmuseum brushed off an impressive collection of fashion items, which can now be seen in Amsterdam.
In the Philips wing of the museum, a total of 7 rooms have been designated for the “Catwalk” exposition. The first room serves as an introduction to the collection, with photographs of the fashion items and televisions showing behind-the-scenes clips of the collection. How the items have been stored away, to protect them, to preserve them, and only now the public can experience their beauty.
Following a purple carpet towards the first room, the audience is welcomed by a carrousel of fashion. The centerpiece is a creamy lace dress, while its wearer is blindfolded by a blush satin cloth. Circling around her are smaller mannequins, little boys and girls dancing around their proverbial mother figure. The image immediately showcases one of the most important messages of the exposition: fashion is not just for women wearing extravagant dresses, fashion is for everyone.
Photographer and designer of “Catwalk”, Erwin Olaf wanted to do more with the exposition than just simply showcasing pretty dresses from the archives. The seven exposition rooms almost do not feel like a museum anymore, with its mysterious lighting, mirrors covering the walls and pedestals and purple catwalk. As a visitor, this makes you realize that museums do not always have to be serious: they can be fun too.
The most impressive and eye-catching part of the exposition is the mirror catwalk, situated in the fourth room of the Philips wing. Mannequins wearing 22 fashion items are walking the catwalk like living models, their hands resting on their hips or behind their backs. The pieces are circling around each other, which creates the illusion of the dresses actually moving, with the flowing of the skirts and the rustling of the fabric. The light falls on the pieces differently every time they move, causing the beads on the dresses to sparkle, the rich fur to light up and the lace to illuminate the complex patterns of the items. Chairs are placed all alongside the catwalk, similar to the shows we witness during fashion week nowadays, so that visitors can just sit down and watch the creations of art pass them.
The centerpiece of the collection can be found in the final display, an eighteenth century wedding dress, showcasing a unique Dutch design. The pale blue frock is embroided with flowers, rich golden patterns, detailed sleeves, a train and, of course, the latitude of the dress. With a width of over 2 meters, this dress is the widest of The Netherlands; a true centerpiece of fashion and history.
“Catwalk” is more than just looking at pretty dresses; it is an impressive showcasing of both fashion and history. The exposition gives visitors the opportunity to witness unique pieces of fashion from up-close, but also to see their beauty in movement, as the pieces were originally created. Are you interested in visiting “Catwalk”? The Rijksmuseum is hosting the exposition from February 20 until May 15, 2016.