Fashioning Belgium 1830-1980 Part I – the exhibition
As part of the research seminar Fashion & Architecture, taught by Professor Maude Bass-Krueger in the Master of Arts in Art Sciences programme at Ghent University, an exhibition was organized and a website was launched. The exhibition, titled Fashioning Belgium (1830-1980) Part 1, aimed to present archival material through various media, focusing on the students' research into Belgian fashion from the founding of Belgium in 1830 to 1980, when the Antwerp Six gained international recognition. This research project was initiated in collaboration with the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels (RMAH/KMKG) under a joint FED-tWIN mandate. It will officially start in spring 2024 and will be supported by Revers, a Belgian fashion research group led by Bass-Krueger and Karen Van Godtsenhoven, based at Ghent University.
The exhibition provided a platform where each research project had its own space, creating a cohesive display. Visitors were able to engage with the material through interactive tactile experiences, video presentations and by browsing through enlarged periodicals. Running from Tuesday 9 May, with a well-attended opening, to Friday 12 May 2023, the exhibition marked the first steps of a wider research initiative and served as a catalyst for further exploration. The exhibition took place in the Vandenhove Centre, a space accessible to students for the presentation of their educational and research initiatives. The exhibition space was divided into sections, with each project presented in a relevant way. In total, 10 research projects were presented, offering insights into different aspects of Belgian fashion.
Upon entering the exhibition, visitors were immediately drawn to a large metal tube containing advertisements for Belgian lingerie brands. Further into the exhibition, a garment, presumably designed by Jenny Van Moergastel, was displayed in a wooden frame. To provide a tactile experience, visitors could feel the texture of the pelerine, allowing them to immerse themselves in the materials and fabrics that made up this nineteenth century garment. An interactive iPad served as a platform for visitors to delve deeper into the history of department stores. They were able to navigate through the information provided and discover the role these establishments played in shaping Belgian fashion. In addition, advertisements from "au louvre" in Ghent were displayed in a showcase, making reference to "Au petit Louvre" in Paris.
Walking through the exhibition, visitors encountered a 3D printed piece of jewelry representing the work of Marie Molitor, a forgotten pioneer of Belgian jewelry art. At the back of the exhibition, but visible from the entrance, was a video installation depicting the browsing of various Ariane magazines. To reach this area, visitors walked across a map of historic Ghent taped to the floor, showing all the department stores in the city's fashion center between 1860 and 1900. Further along, magazine covers were hung on coat racks and a cozy reading corner was set up for visitors to browse through enlarged magazines and immerse themselves in the fashion history of the period.
The end of the exhibition marked the beginning of an in-depth investigation into the untold stories of Belgian fashion. The Fashion & Architecture research seminar, its dedicated participants and the combined efforts of academic and cultural institutions laid the foundations for future efforts to further explore Belgian fashion from 1830 to 1980.
Written by Kim Vanheule, Reviewed by Marthe Bonnez.