Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Sewing: Glamour Exhibition in Brussels

Brussels may be tiny, but it never ceases to amaze me what wealth of attractions it has. True, they may not all be at the palm of your hand - but with a little bit of search one can find all the pleasures of a cosmopolitan capital (ok, almost).

Detail from a Vionnet dress 
on display
I'm interested in all crafts, but I'm more drawn to sewing, and more particularly the art of stitching. I just love the craftsmanship that goes into each and every well-sewn garment - and I'm more and more interested in the history of sewing. I really enjoy the old-fashioned way of doing things and the attention to detail, and I would like to see more everyday garments receiving that special care - not just haute couture.

I'm also interested and fascinated by the 1930s - I love how fluid the dresses were, how the colours complemented the patterns, how Chanel, Vionnet and so many others made their mark in sewing history by pioneering styles still embraced today... I was thus thrilled to find that both these interests found their way into my hometown.

Evolution of style
The Museum of Costume and Lace in Brussels is known for the well-cared exhibitions it houses. Currently, "Glamour" displays garments of the 1930s and lets us take a peek into the fabulous world of (well-to-do) women of that time. (I am conscious of the fact that the majority of people living then would not be wearing such clothes, but I'm also aware of the wonders great sewing can do to humble fabrics).

We are greeted by a pair that makes the difference between this and the previous decade evident: from straight, sack-like to fluid, body-hugging dresses. The accompanying guide informs us that one would change attires throughout the day, going from plain to more elegant and formal as the day progressed (and here I go straight from work to dinner in the same set of clothes...). The exhibition displays the costumes for the respective time of day / social activity but always makes the point to include several types of examples. And that's what makes this exhibition so interesting: not only to witness the variety of the styles but also to mark the evolution through the years.
Dress code for the casino

The majority of garments displayed are gifts from private families in Belgium, which in my mind also shows how lively little Belgium was (and still is). One would have to even have to seriously consider what to wear when going to the casino - dress codes reminding me of the likes of The Great Gatsby... 

Tiny, really tiny but
beautiful dress
The exhibition continues, and I lose myself to a myriad of delicate fabrics, all hand-sewn, with little flowers decorating the hems of otherwise simple dresses and I'm thinking of an era when bespoke was the norm, not the exception...

Also interesting to note is how tiny women were in those days: all the dresses shown are really minuscule and it makes me wonder how such styles would look today. Don't look further: also on display are creations by contemporary Belgian fashion designers, inspired by the 1930s and made for today's body types.

how to stay flexible and THIN!!!
This exhibition is a lovely way to spend a Sunday morning, when the rest of the city is trying to make the most of the last rays of sun and when there is a noisy beer festival going around town - inside the Museum, the soft 1930s music takes me to a calm place, full of nice perfumes, soft fabrics, exquisite accessories, girdles... Wait, what?

Well yes, my dears. While on the surface everything is smooth and fluid, underneath there is a lot of construction work going on. A self-explanatory display informs us what to wear on what occasion...

If you happen to be in Brussels, this is one of the exhibitions I fully recommend. It is on display until February 1, 2015.

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