02 Mar 2016 • Fashion
Photographer Erwin Olaf portrays Dutch fads for Catwalk: Fashion at the Rijksmuseum
AMSTERDAM – Photography and fashion go together like peaches and cream. So it is almost with a twist of genius that the upcoming spectacle Catwalk: Fashion at the Rijksmuseum is, fittingly, a fashion-focused exhibition designed and curated by world-renowned Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf.
Through till 16 May, six galleries of the Philips Wing will be decked with a textile tribute to Dutch fashion, spanning from 1625 to 1960, each piece plucked from the Rijksmuseum's 10,000+ fashion item collection – with some pieces being shown for the very first time. From a pair of Golden Age underpants belonging to the Count of Nassau Dietz, to Helena Slicher’s wedding dress – the widest gown in the Netherlands; the exhibition weaves in many unusual stories. Within these stories are clues into the social rules of bygone eras, eras describing age-old fashionista fetishes, social status, age, royalty and trend, with the museum’s Curator of Costumes, Bianca du Mortier, explaining: 'The garments presented in this exhibition reflect the stories of the people who wore them. In fashion, the choices of the wearer count – they make him or her a trendsetter or a follower'.
Each stitch and ruffle was celebrated under the eye of photographer Erwin Olaf, and each room curated under a specific theme. For example, the Couture Show installation features a prim line of classical Thonet chairs, sketching out the first row of a fashion runway, with visitors invited to sit and watch a chronological fashion parade, all in past tense. Some gems on show include a post-war dress made of silk Royal Airforce pilot’s maps; a Yves Saint Laurent 'Mondrian dress'; and the silk taffeta cocktail dress by Cristóbal Balenciaga. To breathe life into these garments, Bonaveri's mannequins don contemporary fashions while Nanasai Corp's models enrobe with 18th to 20th century attire.
A sobering look into one of fashion’s closest allies: time, Catwalk revisits bygone epochs of style that may have passed, but are certainly not forgotten. With gentle reminders such as this exhibition, it acts as another major tribute to one of the most steadfast corners of society: that of what we wear.
The exhibition Catwalk: Fashion at the Rijksmuseum is on now and runs until 15 May 2016.
Photos courtesy of Rijksmuseum