Fashion Statements at the Amsterdam Museum

Fashion Statements, which recently opened at the Amsterdam Museum, is a far more interesting exhibition than the recent one at The Hague’s Gemeentemuseum.  The Amsterdam Museum shows this temporary exhibition in five rooms of its sprawling building. Ask directions at the till, make sure you pick up the English-Dutch Loan Booklet at the start of the exhibition and don’t forget to return it afterwards.

This exhibition is all about fashion, identity, then and now. Take the questions on the wall near the entrance. Did you pick the outfit you are wearing randomly? What about colours? Shoes?  Are you making a statement? What do your clothes reveal about you?

Costumes from the museum’s collection are displayed, together with items created by contemporary designers. The first room’s theme: “Shape your Body”? Of course, it tells the story of how women shaped their body from the 16th century up to today.  

Here are corsets – clearly used -, panniers, petticoats, bustles, crinolines. Women once used them to draw attention to certain parts of the body. But here are also three items from the 2019 fashion collection “Evolve around me” by Ninamounah. Since graduating, this designer won several important awards and takes part in the Paris, as well as London Fashion Week. She also highlights certain parts of the body in these three items.

What I missed here: men also wore corsets. Those 19th century heroes, dandies? You think they got those firm stomachs and broad shoulders in the gym?

The second room has two themes: “More is More” and “Prints in Fashion & Embroidered Bodies”. Items displayed here, were created by modern designers Marga Weimans and Bas Kosters. Marga Weimans dislikes trends. Her designs range from minimalist, to haute couture and amazing art installations.

Bart Kosters is one of the leading modern Dutch fashion designers. He is very interested in the technical skill behind texture, Textiles. He clearly loves colours and prints. Of course, he shows his creations at the Amsterdam and London Fashion Week, but also organizes the Anti-Fashion Party.

The creations of the modern designers are contrasted by fashion statements from the 18th century to early 19th century, which influenced them. Here are examples of robe à la française, robe a l’ anglaise, Victorian ball gowns and one demanding the wearer used a corset drawing in her waist to a sickening 54 cms!

Visitors find more contemporary examples created by Bart Koster in the third room. Have a good look at the men’s embroidered waistcoats. Exquisite embroidery – we no longer appreciate! Rather sad, men now were dull business suits in dark colours; or hoodies, sweaters in uni- or a limited number of colours.  

Riotous colours disappear in the second half of this room and its theme: “Shades of Black”. Modern designers displaying their creations here, are the two men going by one name: “Art Comes First”. A few of their black modern items are shown here.

If you are familiar with historic fashion trends, you are aware black was not just worn as mourning. You will not be surprised there is a black wedding dress, dating from 1900-1905. From all the black, the display ends with a selection of white chemises from around 1800-1820.

Apparently, the booklet which already has minimal explanations and texts was running into too much pages. Minimal explanation about exhibited capes and resembling mantle and what the exact differences are? After exhibit 4.10, the last few items in this room aren’t explained at all.

“Not Made for Walking” is – no need to ask – about old-fashioned and modern shoes. The two men behind “Patta” may now design sporty foot-wear, garments, accessories? Their roots are in hip-hop music!

Luxury 18th century shoes do not at all resemble sneakers, though the historic fashionistas did not shun high heels. These silk schoes with buckles containing diamonds were not street-wear, of course.  Visitors come across house-shoes, mules, summer shoes, fancy ankle boots and winter boots – indoor and outdoor wear.

This exhibition ends with “Hips don’t Lie”; full court dresses from the 18th century simply stun! The Dutch court may have been unable to compete with Versailles as fashion centre of the world; Dutch ladies did order their court dresses  – a grande parure – in Paris. Here are impressive examples of robes à la française with pli Watteau.

Here are also three outfits artist and fashion designer Karim Adduchi selected from his WOW Amsterdam private collection from 2015. Themes refer to Morocco and Berber traditions. Karim Adduchi studied in Barcelona, as well as in Amsterdam – but no longer shows his creations during the traditional fashion season.     Kate    12th May 2019

Fashion Statements is one of several exhibitions at the Amsterdam Museum. It ends on 8th September 2019.