Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Czech Folk Costumes (Musaion, Prague)

The Musaion (Ethnographic Museum) in Prague has an extensive collection of Czech folk costumes dispersed through a number of different rooms and display cases. It was interesting to see the similarities and differences from the Polish folk costumes at the Ethnographic Museum in Kraków.  I also found a list of the key differences between Czech and Slovak costumes here -- number 13 on the list is "If woman has a really giant bow attached to her head, it’s Czech."  Note the enormous bow on the costume pictured above.

I love the fanciful quality of design lines that extend well beyond the frame of the body.  It looks as if she could fly away on the first stiff wind.   Or maybe the bow can become a propeller and she just skims along the ground like a low-flying helicopter.  

(Remember that you can click on the photos to enlarge them, if desired.)

There was very little English signage in the costume exhibits, so I can't tell you much about the context of the garments.  But certainly there were lots of shawls and big skirts and puffy sleeves. 

Puffed sleeves like this always remind me of the book, Anne of Green Gables, as Anne had a longing for puffed sleeves.
Anne was standing in the gable room, looking solemnly at three new dresses spread out on the bed. . . . [Marilla] had made them up herself, and they were all made alike--plain skirts fulled tightly to plain waists, with sleeves as plain as waist and skirt and tight as sleeves could be.
"I'll imagine that I like them," said Anne soberly.
"I don't want you to imagine it," said Marilla, offended. "Oh, I can see you don't like the dresses! What is the matter with them? Aren't they neat and clean and new?"
"Then why don't you like them?"
"They're--they're not--pretty," said Anne reluctantly. . . . "Oh, I AM grateful," protested Anne. "But I'd be ever so much gratefuller if -- if you'd made just one of them with puffed sleeves. Puffed sleeves are so fashionable now. It would give me such a thrill, Marilla, just to wear a dress with puffed sleeves."
~ Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Above is a closeup of the pleated collar with its lace edging, as well as the trim and embroidery on the vest.  Another difference between Czech and Slovak costumes, apparently, is that an "extra pompous collar" is characteristic of Czech costumes.  

This layered and pleated capelet is simple but elegant -- I could see this on an opera cape or trench coat.  (My apologies for the glass reflection in this shot -- it was hard to get good photos at times.) 

Wow -- look at the shoulders on this outfit!  I wonder what supports the lines of the garment.  (And I thought the outfits in the 1980s featured big shoulders, but apparently we could have gone so much farther.) 

The close-up photo reveals more pleating and lace, this time on the sleeve. 

Cross-over lines on the bodice, aprons, and lace appeared in a number of the women's garments. 

One display was set up as a wedding tableau, shown in the photo above and those below.  

Here are some of the men's wedding garments. 

In this closeup photo, you can see the embellishment on the men's garment, including (machine?) embroidery, lace, and buttons. 

More wedding clothes -- puffy sleeves and a big bow!  Anne of Green Gables would feel a "thrill" to see it, I'm sure. 

I wonder if this is the groom?  I love the black coat and vest -- elegant and timeless.  Yellow pants are apparently characteristic of Czech folk costumes. 

I suspect this is the bride, as she is riding in the cart.  Look at the HUGE pleated collar and sleeves, and the very tall embellished hat.  I wonder if the outfit was comfortable or if she was eager to get into her ordinary clothes at the end of the day.

I enjoy the outrageously fancy outfits, but they often seem to sacrifice comfort and functionality in their quest for elegant beauty.  Would the hat be itchy or heavy enough to make one's neck ache?  Wouldn't one be sure to spill something on the big pleated collar, and can one dance freely with such enormous sleeve puffs?  My practical self asks, why must we be slaves to fashion, rather than fashion serving our needs?  I think the true art is to make clothing that feels as lovely as it looks, without the sense of constriction and inhibition that fancy clothing so often entails.  I can only hope that the artisans who made these costumes were skilled enough to create beautifully functional fashion. 

Next up: Czech out these hats!

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