Accessories are a Girl’s Best Friend

  • 16-09-2017 until 28-01-2018

    A new exhibition, ‘Accessories are a Girl’s Best Friend’, will begin on 16 September in the Museum of Bags and Purses. The new exhibition will highlight the most remarkable pieces from the Rijksmuseum’s extraordinary accessory collection, including parasols, umbrellas, hats, hair accessories, shawls, gloves, fans, shoes and stockings. These hidden (until now!) fashion treasures are usually stored in the Rijksmuseum depot, but from 16 September 2017 until 28 January 2018, they’ll be on display at the Museum of Bags and Purses. In addition to the exceptional accessories from the Rijksmuseum, remarkable bags from the Museum of Bags and Purses’ own collection will also be on display.







    It’s all about the details
    The term ‘accessory’ was first used in the 19th century. Accessories can have a practical function: gloves protect the hands from cold, and hats protect against the sun. Accessories like bags and pouches can be used to carry items that don’t fit into pockets. Traditionally, accessories have been used to decorate and distinguish. They reflect the culture of the moment and the social status of the wearer. They are as much a part of the overall fashion system as clothing, if not a component that changes more quickly than (clothing) fashion itself.


    Accessories: stories about use and etiquette
    Who wore a specific accessory, when and why? The Accessories are a Girl’s Best Friend exhibit tells the visitor an especially complete and historic story about a variety of accessories, their use and etiquette. The manner in which an accessory was worn for each occasion was of great significance. Sometimes, an accessory was so distinctive for a specific period that it lent its name to the period itself. Think here of the ‘Wig Era’ or the ‘millstone collar’. Accessories could also indicate time: the longer the glove, the later it was in the day.



    Highlights from the Rijksmuseum’s accessory collection

    Thanks to a unique collaboration with the Rijksmuseum, visitors to the Museum of Bags and Purses will experience the absolute highlights of the fashion world at the Accessories are a Girl’s Best Friend exhibit. They will also discover the most important accessory trends of the last 400 years.


    For example…
    ‘House hats’
    ‘House hats’ were generally worn in the morning, and only in and around the house, where the wearer would not be seen. It was a way for her to have a tidy appearance during the day, without having to do her hair.


    Ladies would take a parasol along on their afternoon strolls, as protection from the sun. Although today, we’re accustomed to getting a bit of a tan, this was absolutely taboo until the end of the 1920s. Ladies tried to maintain a pale complexion. So a parasol was absolutely necessary when they were out in the sun. It was only when Coco Chanel returned from a cruise with well-tanned skin that sunbathing became popular.


    Evening bags
    After 1900, women carried more bags that were specifically designed for the evening: small purses of special material. Mesh bags were very popular, as were bags of cut steel. Starting in the 1920s, couturiers began to focus more and more on (evening) bag design. In the Art Deco period, they experimented with new handbag materials, such as plastic (celluloid) and aluminium.

    Avondtas, Chanel, plastic to imitate ivory, France, 1930s – kopie


    Dance cards
    In the 19th century, it was common to keep a dance card for dance partners at a ball. There were strict rules for requesting a dance at these events: in order to be allowed to dance with a lady, the gentleman first needed to ask her chaperone for permission. Then, both the young lady and the young man would write the name of the intended dance partner in their dance cards, using a pencil that was attached to the card. Only then could there be dancing.


    A lady needed a fan when she attended a ball, not so much to cool herself down, but because a fan provided a way to speak in code or in secret with girlfriends and potential lovers. In addition to illustrating social status, a well-decorated fan could be the best place to exchange quite a bit of information.


    ‘Accessories are a Girl’s Best Friend’ is on display from 16 september 2017 until 28 january 2018 in the Museum of Bags and Purses. Drop by or order your tickets online.

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