Mode Museum

MoMu Fashion Museum in Antwerp

This blog features posts from the various departments at the MoMu Fashion Museum Antwerp who share their insights on the Museum's working, exhibitions and projects. MoMu is located in the centre of the Antwerp fashion district. Every year, the museum organises two thematic exhibitions, along with workshops, guided tours,...
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Mary Prijot and the Antwerp Fashion Department

During the turbulent 1960s, the fashion and theatre costume department of the Antwerp Royal Academy of Fine Arts was founded by the then Academy director Mark Macken. He appoints Mary Prijot, pianist and artist, as the head of the new department. Under her leadership the department of decorative and fashion drawing develops into a fully-fledged training program in fashion drawing with a distinct focus on the graphic aspect of the design process. Mary Prijot is a classically trained artist and her conception of fashion holds French elegance in very high regard – her shining example is Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel.

As part of the curriculum the students also visit fashion capitals like Paris and London, for Prijot believes that a broad artistic-cultural foundation is essential to becoming a good designer. In these cities, the students come in contact with the fashions and revolts at the end of the sixties. Although Prijot thinks it is necessary to be modern and fashionable, she is not interested in street and protest in fashion. At that moment, the artistic scene of the Wolstraat is booming in Antwerp. the fashion students do not take part. They trot around looking smart and elegant and have little in common with the hippies and provos that populate the other art programs. They are regarded as outsiders by their fellow students from other disciplines.

The end of year show of the department takes place in the cafeteria and the winter garden of the Academy. During the show everyone -both theatre and fashion design- uses the same music; it is a tape Prijot borrows from the fur seller Benoît. Already at this early stage of the program big names such as Jo Wijckmans, Linda Loppa and Fred Debouvry graduate. When still a student, Marthe Van Leemput is hired as couple instructor. Over the following years she becomes Prijot’s right hand.

Joyeux Anniversaire from Jean Paul Gaultier

The presence of Jean Paul Gaultier among the jury of the Golden Spindle in 1983 gave this bygone competition an international aura, and his admiration for the talent he saw gave national fashion a tremendous confidence boost.

For the catalogue ‘Fashion Antwerp Academy 50′ published by Lannoo on the occasion of the Happy Birthday Dear Academie exhibition, Gaultier shares his memories in the preface of the catalogue.

‘The first time I ever visited Antwerp was for the Canette d’Or, the Golden Spindle contest in 1983. I knew of the Antwerp Academy’s reputation because Linda Loppa, who had her own shop and was a customer of mine, headed the Fashion Department of the Academy at the time. When I arrived in the city, I discovered the importance of fashion and architecture – the Art Nouveau, the many beautiful stores, and the sense of fashion. So Fab!

I was shocked. It was something I truly didn’t expect. When I saw the student show I was so impressed with the quality, the professionalism. Each student could have had their own show in Paris – for me, that’s a big compliment. We went to see the Golden Spindle collect installations, and I was amazed that the designers did not only give attention to the clothes – each collection told an interesting story -, but also to merchandising, the presentation. I realized that everything was in balance, everything was complete! I myself hadn’t gone to school; I didn’t know that you could even learn all that!

So, to the Fashion Department of the Academy on its 50th birthday, I say Joyeux Anniversaire! All the designers I know have succeeded to develop their own personal style, and they prove that creativity is the only path to follow – even in periods of crisis. Bravo to them! – Jean Paul Gaultier’

Europeana Fashion Challenge

From 12 November until 12 December, Europeana Fashion hosts the online Europeana Fashion Challenge on Wikipedia. During this month-long challenge, participants are invited to edit articles related to fashion on Wikipedia and have a chance to win some great prizes.

The challenge welcomes both new and experienced writers to create, edit or improve as many fashion related articles on Wikipedia as possible. As a source of inspiration and to enrich the articles with illustrations, writers can use contemporary and historical fashion images and videos from the collections of Europeana Fashion partners on Wikimedia Commons.

Participants receive points for creating new articles and expanding existing articles that contain one or more Europeana Fashion images. The most studious participants have a chance to win fashion books made available by Europeana Fashion partners.

To kick off the challenge, three fashion edit-a-thons are held around Europe: in Sweden, Italy and Israel. During these events, attendees are taught how to edit on Wikipedia. However, attendance of one of these edit-a-thons is not required for participants of the online challenge. Anyone can enter the challenge by signing up and editing from wherever they are.
The Europeana Fashion challenge is organised by Europeana Fashion, Europeana Awareness, Wikimedia Sweden, Wikimedia Italy and Wikimedia Israel.

Wartime Fashion

Anyone with an active interest in World War II and fashion can now upgrade his knowledge with the new and essential reading, Wartime Fashion: From Haute Couture to Homemade, 1939-1945, now available at the MoMu Library.

The Second World War and dress in Great-Britain were the inspiration for Geraldine Howells comprehensive analysis and study. Howell puts dress at the forefront of a complex series of cultural chain reactions. She explores the impact of war on the dress and appearance of civilian women of all classes in context of changing social and economic infrastructures created by the national emergency. – Wartime Fashion: From Haute Couture to Homemade, 1939-1945 by Geraldine Howell.

Text by Lize Römer

Inspired by… History of Dutch textiles

Recently the library has been supplemented with several books about the weaving, silk and coton industry in Holland, more specific Amsterdam and Haarlem.

One of them is the book of Sjoukje Colenbrander – When Weaving Flourished: the silk industry in Amsterdam and Haarlem, 1585-1750. This book gives an impression of the little known subject of the flourishing silk industry in Holland and gives us a glimpse into the lives of those involved.

Silk is also an important topic in A History of Dutch Quilts by An Moonen. Moonen tells about the long tradition and gives a comprehensive insight of quilt making in Holland that has it’s oldest references out the 13th century.
To deepen your knowledge about Dutch textile even more you can also read the new study of Herman Kaptein: de Hollandse Textielnijverheid 1350-1600: conjunctuur en continuiteit. Also when you like to read more about textiles, try Susan Kay-Williams’: The Story of Colour in Textiles.

Text by Lize Römer

1920s Fashion The Definitive Sourcebook

The MoMu library just received 3 beautiful books written and edited by Charlotte Fiell and Emmanuelle Dirix: three ‘Definitive Sourcebooks’ on 1920s, 1930s and 1940s fashion.

Emmanuelle Dirix is a long-time collaborator, researcher and curator for MoMu and teaches fashion history in London (LCF, CSM) as well as at Antwerp’s fashion department.

The three books contain a critical text on the fashions and defining events of these decades which influenced fashion. The 600+ fashion plates and images illustrate very thoroughly the fashion changes over the years, the representation of women and the use of materials and techniques by different designers and fashion houses.

As one can imagine, these 3 decades have seen major changes in society as well as in fashion. In the first book on the fashions of the Roaring Twenties, Dirix debunks the myth that all of Europe was dressed as the typical ‘flapper girls’ and shows how the 1920S brought about major changes in society which were reflected in easier, democratized fashions for these new types of working women. Coco Chanel’s “pauvre chic” gets some attention as well as the evolution in European couture houses and the copies of Parisian fashions abroad. The influence of sportswear on high fashion is visible in the fashion plates of the time. The image plates are divided into daywear, evening wear, outerwear and the typical 1920s accessories such as boas and hats.
The images in this book are a true feast for the eye!

A tour at the MoMu Archives for Opening Ceremony

This year Opening Ceremony is celebrating all things Belgium and paid an exclusive visit to the the MoMu Archives together with Wim Mertens, curator of the MoMu collection, check out the report here!


We are very proud to be featured in the November issue of Vogue USA!

The magazine dedicated an article on young European fashion museum and curators. “Kaat Debo leads the next generation of curators redefining fashion museum worldwide.”

HBDA Scenography & Dolls

Check out this video shot at the opening of the ’50 Years Antwerp Fashion Department’ exhibition and mixed with the custom-made Bonami mannequins.

Bonami for Happy Birthday Dear Academie

The current exhibition Happy Birthday Dear Academie radiates a unique atmosphere, created as well by the custom made ‘mannequin’ dolls exclusively manufactured for the exhibition by the Belgian company BONAMI from Aalter, who are world renowned for their innovative mannequins.

By means of four different themes in the exhibition (Arcadia, Nirvana, Desire & Harmony/Protest), gathering the graduation projects of different generations of students an image emerges of the Antwerp Fashion Department’s unique training program as an artistic cocoon. Co-curator and scenographer Walter Van Beirendonck chose 4 pastel colours to match with the themes which were applied on the exhibitions walls and also on the BONAMI dolls.

In terms of authentic display figures and visual displays, Mannequins BONAMI has been an established name since 1987 and managed to build an international reputation on every continent: from Tokyo to New York, from Sydney to Paris. Nowadays over 80% of its turnover is generated abroad.

Bonami develops its own creations for different markets, and in addition, it designs custom-made products for larger client groups. This way, the client is involved at all times, from the prior brainstorming sessions to the creation itself, the first prototype, the finishing, the delivery to the shop, and the subsequent follow-up. This continuous collaboration and the direct communication with artistic directors, photographers, in-house sculptors & designers indeed ensure that BONAMI’s mannequins exceed clients’ expectations and increase their fashion brand’s international visibility.

From its renewed showroom in Aalter, BONAMI wishes to inspire every fashion company in Belgium and in the rest of the world.


During the ASVOFF#6 screenings in Antwerp we asked the audience to cast their vote to their favourite short film! The Antwerp edition public award goes to ‘Monster Love’ by the French singer/actress Soko.

The film is a VHS-recorded promo about a hartbroken monster who tries to win the affection of a mermaid, but ends up with another monster (played by Soko) and was shot in the Silverlake neighbourhood of L.A and is soundtracked by a song that shares its title by Soko in duet with L.A. underground star Ariel Pink.


For MOMU3 X BULO, MoMu invited visual artist Frederik Heyman to work on the MoMu collection, in a way that transcends the static character of a traditional exhibition. For MOMU3, Heyman creates, in collaboration with graphic artist Wout Bosschaert, 3 fashion films in which he infuses the rich collection of the ModeMuseum with digital life by using 3D scans and manipulations.

The video is divided in three parts: Embroidery, Skirts and Motifs.

EMBROIDERY: Embroidery is a decorating technique which is still being used in fashion today, from a minimalist accent to a piece which is completely covered. Variation in color, application and choice of embroidery threads, other materials and production (by manual labour or mechanical).
Featuring: Two dresses in silk crêpe decorated with bead embroidery, Huis Timmermans Lier, 1925-27, MoMu collection T86/65 and T86/126 / Dress in crêpe decorated with embroidery in mohair and appliqué embroidery in silk crêpe, Olivier Theyskens for Rochas, F/W 2003-04, MoMu collection T09/674AB / Ensemble with coat in silk decorated with embroidery and bead embroidery, a blouse and pants in printed silk, Dries Van Noten, S/S 2008, MoMu collection T09/48 and T09/50.

SKIRTS: Skirts largely define the silhout of a woman in fashion trends. They can be straight and tight to wide and bulky. The latter is obtained by cutting folds and frowns, wether or not in combination with one or more underskirts or by using so called paniers, crinolines, or bustles: constructions in reed, metal or plastic that hold the dress or skirt away from the body.
Featuring: Jacket in printed cotton, 1770-1790 and skirt in quilted silk satin, 1750-90, MoMu collection T12/15/B8 and T13/348/B91 / Ensemble with jacket in cotton with silver coating, and skirt in cotton, partly with silver coating, with plastic baleens, decorated with trimmings, Yohji Yamamoto, S/S 2008, MoMu collection T09/1 and T09/2 / Ensemble with jacket in tweed, skirt in a mixture of silk, manmade silk and lurex with crinoline in cotton and plastic baleens, leather stiletto boots and an oversized hat in felt, Walter Van Beirendonck, F/W 2010-11.

MOTIFS: For centuries motifs have decorated tissues figurative or abstract in a variation of colours, that are applied in a variation of techniques: painted, printed, embroided, weaved. The motif can be used sparingly or abundantly, small or large, clear or gauzy,… it’s the tailor and designer who choose to use the motif (or not), in combination with a pattern to come to a creation with his or her signature that describes a contemporary fashion image.
Featuring: Jacket in woolen jacquard weave with kashmir pattern, decorated with silk trimmings, ca. 1885, MoMu collection T12/108/M27 / Dress and stole in printed organza silk, Christian Dior, ca. 1954, MoMu collection T12/98AB/J204 / Dress in digital printed silk, Peter Pilotto, S/S 2012, MoMu collection T12/820

The films are also on view in a video installation at the renewed Bulo headquarters in Mechelen from October 11th until November 30th (free entrance).

MOMU3 – film credits: Art direction by Frederik Heyman, 3D Scans & 3D designs by Wout Bosschaert, Music & sound design by Golden Hum, Curated by Kaat Debo.