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The Gilded Halls

Updated: Feb 14, 2022

An Ode to Fashion Museums

There’s nothing like a trip to a fashion museum! Roaming the corridors of a finely curated exhibit gives me the opportunity to witness the ingenuity and vision of designers who’ve made a living dressing the world. Whether you’re an obsessed fashionista like me or work as a designer or tailor, it’s the ideal place to go for inspiration.

The good news is, there's a plethora of places in which to galvanize the creative current running through you. Let’s break it down, because there’s a fashion museum out there for everyone.

There are museums dedicated solely to historical fashion. They function as a visual catalog of who-wore-what-when for visitors and feature garments of global inclusion. There are also museums that host temporary fashion exhibits, collections of a particular designer curated to reflect the longevity of their varied and successful career.

Hmm…now what if you have a particular, more specific, passion?

Image credit: Salvatore Ferragamo Shoe Museum, Florence.

Are you a shoe person? How about the Musée Salvatore Ferragamo in Florence, Italy? They have a collection of ten thousand shoes spanning a timeline between the 1920s to the 1960s. If you’d like to go farther back in time how about the Musée de la Chaussure in France? They have an Egyptian sandal over three thousand years old, their most aged piece.

Image credit: Ruedi Karrer in The Jeans Museum.

Then there are the one-offs, small but jam-packed style repositories typically run by one or two individuals. For example, the Jeans Museum in Zurich, Switzerland; it houses over fourteen thousand pairs of perfectly faded jeans and jean jackets.

Another great forum from which to get your fashion fix is through your local fine arts college. Many schools that offer fashion degrees house impressive collections of garments for their students’ consultation and you don’t always need to be enrolled to take a look.

Cultural centers and foreign consulates occasionally offer a small sampling of gorgeous textile history to educate and exemplify. In Chicago a few years back, I was able to see about a dozen priceless kimonos at the Japanese Cultural Center in the Lakeview neighborhood, pieces all sewn over a century ago.

Image credit:

Ssh! There’s also the Antique Corset Museum in Vancouver, B.C.! They house a collection of over 300 dainties and are “dedicated to the history of elusive and frivolous unmentionables with special emphasis on corsetry and shaping garments used to create the fashionable silhouette.”

Here’s a few more:

National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

National Museum of Costume in the Côte d’Ivoire, in Grand-Bassam.

Vietnamese Women’s Museum in Hanoi.

By the way…who says that inspiration needs to be so linear? Ideas for an article of clothing or even a full line can be generated from the oddest of sources. The paintings, stained glass, historical artifacts, and sculptures contained in art museums are fodder for my most vivid fashion journal entries.

So you see, the options are innumerable.

We’re living in a different world right now, of course. In person visits are not possible everywhere. Check online for rules and regulations before you head out. Not to worry, though. Many museums are offering virtual tours in lieu of in person visits.

I hope this inspires you to do your own search on fashion history exhibits — there are so many. What’s your pleasure? I’d love to hear what you find.

Until next time…

Yours truly,

Vivie V.

*Vivie V. is a fashion enthusiast from Chicago with a penchant for handmade and vintage pieces. She holds a B.A. from Columbia College, where her passion for the creative arts was heavily cultivated. When she’s not blogging for Tailor Village she’s concocting DIY fragrances, sewing her own clothes, and running her consultancy, Vivie V.’s Adorn Yourself.

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