In August, I had the pleasure of visiting the National Museum (Národní Muzeum) in Prague, where an exquisite exhibition called Retro is currently on view.
If you look closely, you’ll see that not all of these dresses are vintage. The exhibit pairs vintage fashion and objects with their more contemporary counterparts, and explores how vintage clothing and objects continue to inspire designers today.
Interpretive labels cover both fashion and social history, placing Czech fashion into the context of international fashion trends. I love how they incorporated illustrations with inset fabrics into the labels.
The gorgeous beaded dress at the center dates from 1926-1927.
Black, sleeveless dresses, with dropped waistlines were very popular in the 1920s, influenced by the flapper trend. In 1928, dark stockings became stylish after Josephine Baker’s visit to Prague.
In the 1930s movies helped the Czech people escape their daily struggles. Popular actors and actresses highly influenced fashion. The dress at the center with the lavender sash and ruffled sleeves was made in 1936. It was inspired by Joan Crawford’s look in the 1932 film Letty Lynton.
Photographic images and illustrations help create dramatic vignettes. They help support the story and artifacts, while letting the the artifacts steal the show.
While Dior was designing with rich floral patterns in the 1950s, the New Look in Czechoslovakia was more practical. Fabrics were not readily available and poor quality. There were also rations, a luxury tax, and textile factories became nationalized in the post-war years. Typical fabrics for dresses were checks or stripes. The yellow and grey checked dress was from Dům Módy one of the few department stores where fine export goods could be purchased in the 1950s.
The New Look is one of the most popular styles emulated in contemporary retro Czech fashion. The red checked dress on the right was made in 2015 by Lazy Eye and inspired by 1950s styles.
The dress on the left was made in a dressmaker’s salon in 1962. On the right is a dress designed in 2013 by Monika Drápalová for Free Circle.
The exhibit is beautifully constructed from the lighting to the flooring, and colors chosen to complement the artifacts. The mannequins are beautifully executed, and works of art in themselves.
This mannequin perfectly curves with the cut-outs in the dress, allowing the visitor to see through the keyholes.
The exhibit focuses on Czech fashion, but also includes other Czech objects, like this adorable scooter with a sidecar.
Visitors can watch classic commercials and see examples of vintage television sets.
In Czechoslovakia bell-bottoms and mini skirts were popular into the late 1970s, and folk costume blouses were popular hippie wear. These blouses continue to influence contemporary designers. The peasant blouse on the right is by Lindex (2013). Men’s leisure suits included a polyester (Terylene) suit and nylon shirts made of fabric from East Germany. Tie-dyed jeans became very popular shortly before 1989.
After visiting the main exhibit hall, visitors can move to a hands-0n area that is fun for kids of all ages. You can dress a mannequin, play games, ride a racing bike, and find out what your voice would sound like on a gramophone.
Retro is on view through April 30, 2017 at the National Museum (Národní Muzeum) New Building. I highly recommend visiting if you find yourself in Prague. It was one of the highlights of my trip.
[Historical information summarized from the Retro exhibition catalog. Visit the Museum website for more information.]