Costume & Fashion by Bianca du Mortier (book)

Edition 20 June 2017, by Paoloa Westbeek

When one thinks of high fashion, countries such as France and Italy usually come to mind. The Netherlands, however, has also left its mark in the fashion world. The country is home to two of the most renowned fashion academies (The Design Academy in Eindhoven and ArtEZ Fashion Design in Arnhem) and has brought forth leading designers such as Mart Visser, Christian Lagerwaard and Frans Molenaar. But clothing is more than a fashion statement. It is also a reflection of society, culture, habits and customs, as is evident from the recently published book, Costume & Fashion.

Edited by the Rijksmuseum’s curator of costumes, Bianca du Mortier, the book explains how by the middle of the 19th century, an interest in the study of antiquities (including clothing and accessories) had reached its peak. This resulted in the 1854 Exhibition of Art and Craft Objects from Former Times which was held at the Amsterdam artists’ society ‘Arti et Amicitiae’. Thereafter, other costume exhibitions followed, paving the way for museums to include garments as part of their permanent collections. The founding of the Netherlands Museum of History and Art (Nederlandsch Museum voor Geschiedenis en Kunst) in The Hague in 1875 marked the beginning of the Rijksmuseum’s collection of costumes. The museum and its collection became part of the Rijksmuseum when it officially opened ten years later.

Today, the Rijksmuseum boasts an impressive collection of costumes, the oldest of its kind in the country. Each piece not only tells the story of those who wore it and why, but it also sheds light on developments that took place during its respective time. In the beautifully illustrated book, eighty of those stunning garments are presented. Ranging from outfits that belonged to the Frisian branch of the Orange dynasty, to 20th-century haute couture designed by the likes of Lanvin, Dior, Balenciaga and Yves Saint Laurent, the book bears witness to the international character of fashion worn in The Netherlands throughout history. Read about the buff-coat worn by Hendrik Casimir I, Count of Nassau- Dietz and Stadholder of Friesland, when he was fatally injured; marvel at the incredible detail and rich materials of elegant women’s gowns from the 19th century; see garments that were actually featured in paintings; and much more. It is a book that is both informative and a pleasure to leaf through.

Rijksmuseum, in association with nai010 Publishers, 2017
The Netherlands in 26 iconic objects
ISBN 978- 94-6003-090-1
Edited by Wim Brands and Jeroen van Kan € 17,50