While you’re in town: Fashion museums around the world

Photo: Mbzt / Wikimedia Commons The Musée Galliera in Paris is just one of many fashion museums worldwide.

Photo: Mbzt / Wikimedia Commons
The Musée Galliera in Paris is just one of many fashion museums worldwide.

Staff Compilation
CNN / Fashionandtextilemuseums.com

Paris, London, and Milan may be the first thoughts when travel and fashion creep into the same thought. A trip to any of the various fashion weeks could make for a once-in-a-lifetime experience of glamor and glitter. But if an entire fashion-centered vacation sound a bit much for you, instead try spending an afternoon at a fashion museum?

Many general interest museums have wings or exhibits dedicated to fashion and clothing throughout history—the dress and fashion collection at the Museum of London, or the display of first ladies’ gowns at the Smithsonian, for example—but there is also a wide range of museums dedicated to fashion all over the world. The following list is just a small sampling; wherever you are, take a look around: there might be a fashion museum near you.

Musée Galliera, Paris
The collection’s focus is on clothing and costume design, covering key moments in fashion history and showcasing iconic French designers. The museum’s collection includes dress and accessories that run the gamut from basic streetwear to haute couture. The 18th Century department is home to one of the world’s largest collections of clothing from the Age of Enlightenment.

Victoria & Albert Museum, London
Spanning four centuries, the V&A’s Fashion collection is the largest and most comprehensive collection of dress in the world. Key items include rare 17th-century gowns, 18th-century ‘mantua’ dresses, 1930s eveningwear, 1960s daywear, and post-war couture. Plus a growing number of pieces from 21st-century designers.

Fashion Museum, Bath, UK
The English town of Bath seems an unlikely place for a museum dedicated to high style, but it has been home to the Fashion Museum since 1963 and boasts a collection of over 80,000 pieces. About 100,000 visitors come each year to check out its annually rotating exhibitions, guided tours, and interactive displays. A bonus: family-friendly “dressing up activities,” in which kids can try on replica archery costumes and Victorian garb over their own clothes. The Collection includes fashionable dress for men and for women, fashion accessories, archive collections, dress-making and knitting patterns, fashion plates, and collections of magazines and photographs. The earliest piece in the Collection dates from the 1580s.

Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, Florence, Italy
The Museo Salvatore Ferragamo pays tribute to this legendary Italian fashion company’s products and the global celebrities who helped make them famous. Naples-born Salvatore Ferragamo became “shoemaker to the stars” in the 1920s after opening a shop in Hollywood. With rotating exhibitions like “Marilyn” and an impressively displayed permanent collection of Ferragamo’s iconic footwear, this museum is a must-see for the footwear-obsessed fashion follower.

The Museum at FIT, New York
Housed at Manhattan’s famed Fashion Institute of Technology, The Museum at FIT is known for its innovative and award-winning special exhibitions. Founded in the late 1960s, it is visited by 100,000 people each year. With a permanent collection of 50,000 garments and accessories from the 18th century to the present, the Museum at FIT places an emphasis on “aesthetically and historically significant ‘directional’ clothing, with an eye toward contemporary avant-garde fashion.”

FIDM, Los Angeles, CA
The museum is located on the ground floor of the Los Angeles campus of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, and houses a collection of over 12,000 costumes, accessories, and textiles from the 18th century through the present day, including film and theater costume. The FIDM Museum also houses the early Hollywood Costume Collection on loan from the City of Los Angeles, Department of Parks and Recreation. It presents the annual Motion Picture Costume Design exhibition at the galleries.

Kent State University Museum, Kent, Ohio
Housed on a university campus in northeast Ohio, the Kent State Museum contains important collections of fashion and decorative arts, with eight galleries featuring rotating exhibitions of work by artists and designers. Affiliated with Kent State’s Shannon Rodgers and Jerry Silverman School of Fashion Design and Merchandising, the museum gives students an up-close-and-personal look at historic and contemporary fashion and costumes from global cultures. Kent State’s collections span from the 17th to the 21st centuries.

Museo de la Moda, Santiago, Chile
Founded in 1999 by Jorge Yarur Bascuñán, a descendant of wealthy Chilean-Palestinian textile merchants, the privately funded Museo de la Moda boasts an impressive 10,000-piece collection. With pieces acquired through auctions and donations, the Museo, the only fashion museum in South America, is in the Yarur Bascuñán historic family home. Its collection, which dates back to 5 B.C., includes the military jacket John Lennon wore during a LIFE Magazine photo shoot in 1966 and the strapless black evening gown then-Lady Diana wore in 1981 during her first public appearance after her engagement to Britain’s Prince Charles.

Kobe Fashion Museum, Kobe, Japan
“The first museum in Japan to specialize in fashion,” the Kobe Fashion Museum houses materials open to students, industry professionals, and those working in fashion. The museum’s fifth floor offers a space for young people to gather for events and entertainment, designed to promote “a new culture of fashion in Kobe.” The collection here not only includes garments from Asia, but also from around the world.

Kyoto Costume Institute, Kyoto, Japan
KCI’s collection currently ranges from the 17th century to the present day, with holdings of 12,000 items of clothing and 16,000 documents. The institute has received donations from some of today’s top designers and fashion houses such as Chanel, Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton and was presented with a gift of approximately 1,000 sets of clothing from Comme des Garçons.

Tassen Museum Hendrikje, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
With 4,000 bags, purses, trunks, pouches, cases, and accessories, this Dutch museum claims to have the “world’s largest bag collection.” It certainly has got some of the world’s most interesting ones. Located in a traditional central Amsterdam canal house, the Tassen Museum boasts Western-style handbags dating back 500 years. Beyond hosting exhibitions of contemporary bag designers from the Netherlands and abroad, the Tassen offers bag-designing workshops, kids’ bag-decorating birthday parties, and afternoon tea in one of its elegantly decorated 17th and 18th century period rooms.

ModeMuseum (MoMu), Antwerp, Belgium
The second-largest Belgian city is known for its sense of style and hipster cool, so it makes sense that a museum celebrating fashion is housed here. A totally renovated 19th century space is the backdrop for ModeMuseum’s thematic exhibitions, which showcase specific designers or fashion-related topics. Rather than parking items in glass cases, curators tailor the museum’s interior spaces to the feel of each exhibition, adding a larger cultural context to the fashion that’s on display.

Museo del Traje, Madrid, Spain
An often overlooked museum that has a surprisingly large collection and beautiful exhibitions. The Museum of Costume was created in 1928 to display traditional clothing and “courtesan” items.

Photo: Anne Hansteen Jarre / Innovation Norway The Royal Dress Collection at Norway’s National Museum of Art, Architecture, and Design.

Photo: Anne Hansteen Jarre / Innovation Norway
The Royal Dress Collection at Norway’s National Museum of Art, Architecture, and Design.

Kunstindustrimuseet, Oslo, Norway
The exhibition consists of three displays, presenting important aspects of the museum’s extensive collection of fashion design. The three exhibition spaces are The Royal Dress Collection (dresses worn by Queen Maud, Crown Princess Märtha, Queen Sonja, and Princess Astrid), Fashion 1600s till 2000, and rotating exhibits on Norwegian Fashion Designers.

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 26, 2014 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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