Dear Shaded Viewers & Diane,
While the international fashion system ashamedly wobbles by restructuring itself, Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum offers a pertinent exhibition examining fashion’s most valuable frame: time. Designed by Dutch photographer and visionary Erwin Olaf, the exhibition travels from the XVIII c. to the XIX c. undressing the museum’s most remarkable fashion archives, and includes pieces, which are being shown publicly for the first time. Olaf performs as an intruder obsessed with the human body’s emotional ergonomics and beauty, lavishly exploring a rich and decadent past in a context of perennial and admirable values.
The garments themselves are spectacular in isolation, their shy details whispering of upper-class romance and grand entrances, but it is how they fit within the wider story of fluidity in fashion, which is the real triumph of this exhibition. Under the expert eye of Olaf, each piece illustrates a subtle change in silhouette, with knees gradually disappearing beneath heavy fabrics and explicit bosoms becoming an irrelevance. It is a testament to the work of Olaf and the museum’s costume conservators and curators that the splendor of individual pieces works in perfect balance with the overall narrative of the show, and no single garment looks out of place. It all worked amazingly well!
Each room is curated under a theme. At the Couture Show installation, grey metallic Thonet chairs lined with black velvet are organized into a first row, with guests invited to sit and watch a chronological fashion parade. From the first row you become the powerful guest, the journalist or the buyer – calmly judging fashion’s symphony. As the changing generations of fashion march down the runway, dedicated grannies, mothers and daughters can chitchat in the front row, choosing their favorite pieces. I was hypnotized by a Cristobal Balenciaga A/W1951 cocktail black dress that not only invites you to dance, but also perfectly reflects the frivolity of Haute Couture with its Pr