Cover up! Coats & jackets 1630-1940

November 11 2013 to June 8 2014
Special collections

The Rijksmuseum exhibits 40 coats from 1630-1940 from its own collection in it's new costume display.

mantille Mantilla of pink quilted silk with a twig-and-flower motif throughout. With a trim of ostrich feathers cut short, Madame Drugeon, c. 1885Although nowadays a jacket is worn primarily to protect you from the elements, in the past every fashionable man and woman had a separate coat for the summer, the rain, going out, walking, visiting people or simply when at home. Each model served a special purpose, was made of a specific material and had its own name: cape, sortie, douillette, redingote, Dolman and pince-taille. Adorned with feathers, beads, embroidery and wire and made of special materials such as brocade, satin and velvet in a wide variety of colours.

Bianca du Mortier, Curator of Costumes: “The wool coat is so back in fashion this winter. What’s more, lots of designers are being inspired by coats from previous centuries, so this exhibition is certainly going to be a joy of recognition for visitors.”

The chic 1930s housewife welcoming guests into her home on an afternoon would do so in a long, silk housecoat. Much less comfortable, but yet incredibly beautiful is the heavy pince-taille made of black embroidered velvet. Meanwhile, women who wore a douillette – a quilted cape – did not actually have a lot of freedom of movement. In the early 19th century, however, it was the first real coat designed for women. Before then, women mainly used shawls to protect themselves against the cold. Compared with the douillette, the 1939 fox fur jacket could very well have just have been part of the latest Parisian winter collection. Just like the very comfortable red satin ‘Japanese coat’ (housecoat for men), the colour of which is still as beautiful as when it was made in 1775. Large, imposing and heavy: that’s the woollen riding cloak of Ernst-Casimir, count of Nassau-Dietz. It was in this very cloak that the count was hit and killed by a musket ball during the Eighty Years’ War and the siege of Roermond in 1632. In whimsical contrast are the evening cape by designer Worth (1825-1895) and its notably excessive frou-frou, and the glorious 1890s women’s cycling jacket.

The exhibition has been made possible with thanks to Bianca du Mortier in collaboration with Birthe Weijkamp, costumes curator in training.