Symposium: Fashion in museums: past, present & future

From 21 to 22 April the Rijksmuseum holds a 2-day conference on the future of fashion in museums in which new developments regarding display and conservation will be discussed.

dior Photo: Erwin Olaf | Dress with matching jacket, Christian Dior (1952)

Not only the curator’s and conservator’s point of view will be presented, but also the administrator’s – who is very often unfamiliar with costume and fashion’s different requirements and has to be convinced of the steep costs of a fashion exhibit. Experts from leading national and international institutions will present their insights: a conference not to be missed!

Over the past two decades most of the blockbuster fashion exhibitions around the world have centered around present day fashion designers and were more or less offered to the respective institutions as a complete package including the extensive marketing and publicity apparatus of the fashion brand. This is a far cry from Diana Vreeland’s original concept (1983-4) of a museum celebrating a contemporary designer – in her case Yves Saint Laurent – by presenting a retrospective curated by the museum and presented by them.


In a speech delivered by renowned fashion journalist Suzy Menkes (International Vogue Editor) at the Rijksmuseum in June 2015 she called for a return to museum curated exhibitions based on in-depth research of their own collections which hold so many amazing yet unexplored treasures. With the exhibition Catwalk, Fashion at the Rijksmuseum (20 February – 16 May 2016) the museum puts a renewed step in this direction by presenting a cross-section of its costume collection – the oldest in the country – in a setting designed by renowned Dutch photographer, Erwin Olaf.


Download programme (pdf)

Among the speakers are:

  • Bianca M. du Mortier, Curator of Costume, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
    Costume & Fashion exhibitions in the Rijksmuseum
    In 1881 the precursor of the Rijksmuseum found to his utter amazement that a display of regional costumes caused visitor numbers to double. The interest in costume or fashion has never ceased thereafter and can be traced through the history of the Rijksmuseum’s displays and exhibitions. Why then do we all of a sudden register yet another rise in popularity and do we now call the extremely successful examples ‘blockbusters’?

  • Sonnet Stanfill, Curator of 20th-Century and Contemporary Fashion, Victoria and Albert Museum, London
    Scholarship and spectacle: fashion exhibitions at the V&A
    In this talk, Acting Senior Curator Sonnet Stanfill will discuss the rise in fashion exhibitions at the V&A, and highlight its methods of staging that aim to breathe life, movement and a sense of drama into static objects on display.

  • Joanna Hashagen, Curator of Fashion and Textiles, Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle
    Taking on Yves Saint Laurent
    How did the first UK retrospective of Yves Saint Laurent come to be in the North of England, rather than in London? This presentation will describe the experience of curating the exhibition with the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent in Paris.

  • Karolien de Clippel, Curator, Modemuseum Hasselt
    Fashion for scholarship
    Researching and highlighting the collection remains a major challenge for the Hasselt Fashion Museum as it is for many museums. This paper argues in favour of the good old object-based approach, for the sake of its potential function as a catalyst in (academic) research and in the widespread support of dress and fashion.

  • Sue-an van der Zijpp, Curator of Contemporary Art, Groninger Museum
    Blockbusters; the end of collection based shows?
    In a time where the importance of visitor numbers prevails and blockbuster shows increasingly seem to take over the museum landscape and humbling collection based shows that can hardly keep up with the desire for spectacle, the Groninger Museum is dealing with both; staging shows like Repin or recently David Bowie Is, while at the same time developing home grown shows too eg. Hussein Chalayan, Viktor&Rolf, Azzedine Alaïa and Iris van Herpen.

For more information please send an email to


21 – 22 April 2016

Prices & registration

Note: Only the first day of the symposium appears in the calender. When you select the date (21 April), you will automatically book and pay for both days (21 and 22 April).


Rijksmuseum, Museumstraat 1 Amsterdam