Archive Vliegende Bladen research, March 2023, photo taken by Aline Deruytter
“...with few exceptions you could hardly say there was any such thing as ‘Belgian Fashion’ culture before the eighties.”
Belgian Fashion Design,
Luc Derycke and Sandra Van de Veire
Belgian fashion offers a wealth of sources for researchers. But despite the prominence of Belgian fashion since the Antwerp Six, surprisingly little is known about the period before that. The main goal of the research project "Fashioning Belgium, 1830-1980," a yearly MA seminar directed by Prof. dr. Maude Bass-Krueger at Ghent University, is to uncover the wealth of historic fashion archives in Belgium and to begin to understand the history of Belgian fashion. This is an ongoing project, in which we ask ourselves: what exactly "fashions" Belgian fashion?
First the first year of the seminar, we began reading all the secondary sources we could find on the subject. A good starting point for our research were the books and articles on Hirsch and Cie by Véronique Pouillard, as well the book Mode in België in de 19de eeuw by Marguerite Coppens. Then, we began to look at material and paper archives. This year we focused on the collections of the MoMu in Antwerp, the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels, and the Ghent University library. In the following years of the seminar, future groups will explore the collections of the Modemuseum in Hasselt and the Brussels Fashion & Lace Museum.
The Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels has an extensive Belgian garment collection, managed by Ria Cooreman, which includes well-known labels such as Nathan and Hirsch and Cie, as well as lesser-known brands like Ascot, Jenny Van Moergastel, and Bouvy. These labels piqued the interest of our research group and provided a good starting point for our research project.
The MoMu in Antwerp has an extensive archive of Belgian fashion, lifestyle, and women's magazines such as Ariane, La Femme Aujourd'hui, and Het Rijk de Vrouw. Their study collection in the library is also a valuable source for examining garments up close and their main collection has interesting examples of unexplored nineteenth- and twentieth-century Belgian fashion design as well.
The Vliegende Bladen archive in the Book Tower at Ghent University offers an overview of Ghent nineteenth-century shopping culture, including advertisements and correspondence related to department stores and Ghent-based couturiers and tailors. Some of these archival documents can be linked to the city archives, such as the Brussels Almanac.
Written by: Lotte Leenknegt. Reviewed by: Lucinda Chen
Archive MoMu research, March 2023, photo taken by Aline Deruytter