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Fashioning fashion – European fashions 1700-1915

Start Date 27 April 2012
End Date 29 July 2012
Venue Deutsches Historisches Museum
Location Berlin, Germany

With Fashioning fashion – European fashions 1700 – 1915 , the German Historical Museum is showing a unique collection of historical clothes from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art exclusively in Germany. The exhibition architecture designed by the renowned Belgian scenographer Bob Verhelst shows more than 200 years of European fashion history spread out.

Fascinating fabrics, refined cuts and precious decorations are presented. Glamorous women’s costumes and elegant men’s suits meet elaborately crafted accessories. You can see magnificent dresses of the wealthy bourgeoisie and the nobility, including highlights such as the gold-embroidered dress of a Portuguese queen or the turban of the designer Paul Poiret.

The spectacular exhibition presents aesthetic and technical developments in the manufacture of fashionable clothing in four chapters.

Fashion shows in chronological order the change in the clothing silhouette for women and men and gives an overview of the contours of sleeves, hem lengths and proportions. In order to draw the viewer’s attention to the silhouette, predominantly white women’s clothing is shown. White was fashionable in every era. In the past centuries, white clothing was also a status symbol, as washing this clothing was still very time-consuming. Men’s clothing, on the other hand, was less subject to change. In the 18th century, men of class dressed as colorful and gorgeous as women. After the French Revolution, the citizens preferred cloth fabrics for their simple suits, and since the middle of the 19th century, dark colors have dominated men’s clothing.

Texture leads to the variety of textile surfaces that are created by complicated weaving, dyeing or printing techniques.Until the end of the 18th century, clothes were only made to order: the customer bought the fabric from a textile dealer, then the tailor took measurements and then he made the desired item of clothing. At the beginning of industrialization, the textile sector played a pioneering role: spinning and steam machines, mechanical looms and pattern looms, sewing machines and making-up of cheaper fabrics and clothes. As a result, fashion became more affordable for many people from the 19th century onwards.

Form deals with the processing of flat textiles into clothing and takes particular account of shaping, supporting and restricting techniques. Traditionally, complicated and expensive clothing such as men’s suits, corsets and court costumes were made by tailors. Seamstresses were more responsible for women’s and children’s clothes.

decoration presents the trimmings and finishes of fashionable clothing: magnificent metal embroidery, artistic trimmings made of silk, fine lace or accessories with colored patterns and sequins. The exposed work was varied and often the most expensive item in an ensemble. Colonial policy and international trade made it possible in the 18th and 19th centuries to import richly decorated goods from countries such as China, Japan and India in large quantities. In Europe, the materials and techniques of imported goods were increasingly being imitated and foreign fashions were mixed with one’s own. In the course of the 19th century the range of machine-made products increased. Printed textiles that looked like they were embroidered, or machine laces, could be purchased at a fraction of the price of handcrafted goods.