Rijksmuseum: New for Now, the origins of fashion magazines

When my friend Alexandra Nederlof called me two days before the opening of New for Now telling me she got me two tickets for the opening, I was (to put it mildly) in a hysterical state of mind because: A. It’s an exhibition including some of the most important fashion prints, B. Vogue International editor Suzy Menkes came to open the exhibition (hallelujah!) and C. What to WEAR? Alex has one of the most awesome jobs ever: she is a paper conservator at the Rijksmuseum and the past years she restored all the exhibited prints to make sure every single one of them looks as fabulous as they do right now.

Ok, the outfit wasn’t hard to find… Everything already hung in my closet except for the new jacket I bought in the sale! #thatheelskilledmebtw #butjustsmileandwaveandpretendyoudontfeeladamnthing

New for Now

The predecessors of today’s Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle and L’Officiel (to name a few) are the engraved costume and fashion prints. In the 16th century costume books became very popular as more elitist ladies and gents got fascinated by other cultures and their clothing behaviors. The first costume book was printed in Paris (where else…?) in 1562. Initially, the book’s purpose wasn’t to give insight in fashion trends but to offer an overview of the dress codes in different countries.

Time changed and so did the way people looked at clothes. Gradually, costume prints paved the way for fashion prints that circulated from court to court. It was seen as thé medium to spot trends and a handy tool to inform their personal tailors about their wanted clothing designs.

New for now magazine covers

Collage of 19th and 20th century fashion magazine covers

Walk through the history of fashionista’s

The exhibition consists of more than 400 costume and fashion prints that show you the most important fashion trends from 1600 up to and including the first half of the 20th century. Every room in the exhibition tells the story of another century.

One of the first things you see when entering the exhibition is a colorful collage (picture above) with covers of various international fashion magazines. Alexandra told me it’s meant as a playful and 3D-like overview of the 19th and 20th century magazine covers. To achieve this whimsical effect they played some technical tricks to let the covers look like they are floating. An interesting aspect of this analysis is to see how these covers differ from today’s ones. Back in the old days they couldn’t care less about who was on the cover, all that mattered was the clothes… Nowadays the focus is the exact opposite.

New for Now Cabinet des Modes-001

Cabinet des Modes, the first fashion magazine published in Paris between 1785 and 1789.

When entering the second (minty green colored) room, the space is divided by a hedge of fake plants where you start your journey through 18th century Paris. Next to its purpose as a room divider, the hedge is also a wink to the life of 18th century Parisians and Parisiennes who spent there time parading through the Tuileries to show each other their newest outfits. They even created a 18th century catwalk by hanging a series of fashion prints in small frames on the room’s left wall! LAIK!

The third room is painted soft blue and represents the 19th and 20th century (yes, also prints from by favorite (fashion) era, the Roaring Twenties, are featured!) and a little black room that explains about the 16th and 17th century with mostly costume (black-white) engravings by Dutch engravers.

New for now exhibition

The black room

New for now capes

Love of my life: the CAPE!

New for now interior

Fashionable interior couldn’t be left behind…

New for now accessoires

Hats, headgears, necklaces, hand fans and more wanted accessories of the 20th century fashionista.

New for now british

Weldon ladies’ journal

New for Now grand decolletage-002

Le grand décolletage by George Barbier and Henri Reidel.

New for Now print-001

Au revoir by George Barbier and Henri Reidel (1920)

As a born fashion addict (nope, not the one who spends her whole salary on one coat), I’ve always been interested in the way how fashion is in fact society’s mirror and has the ability to reflect the zeitgeist of any given period. So for me, this exhibition was like hea-ea-ven! Especially since I just finished the book The Essence of Style by Joan DeJean (Trustees Professor in Romance Languages at the University of Pennsylvania) that explains the history of the concept of style and fashion in a fascinating way. Highly recommended to read! Just like the exhibition’s catalog, that has the layout of a luxurious fashion magazine!

The exhibition can be seen until the 27th of September. So be quick, before these amazing prints are going to continue their hidden existence in the boxes of the Rijksprentenkabinet.