Fashion – in the sense of being temporary and passing - is particularly visible in the way people dressed and adorned themselves. Therefore the collection of the Rijksmuseum not only encompasses costumes and accessories – together no less than 10.000 items – but also more than 500 pocket watches and over 1.000 pieces of jewellery. The earliest costumes and accessories date from the 17th century, the most recent from the second half of the 20th century. Most items of apparel and accessories originate from the upper classes and were collected because of their cut, fabric or decoration. However the Rijksmuseum also has a number of less opulent clothes and trimmings which are especially interesting from a historical point of view or because of the importance of their former wearer.
As costumes and accessories are frequently made of fabric, they can only be displayed for a limited amount of time. Textiles are susceptible to light, moisture and varying temperatures. The often precious materials of watches and jewellery are less vulnerable. Apart from being examples of craftsmanship and beauty they illustrate the human urge for beautification through the ages, from early Christian times (jewellery) and the 16th century (watches) to the present day.