Costume Heaven

art4art

It’s always been my dream to visit the fundus of Art4Art – the ateliers that make all the costumes (and everything else related to them – corsets, shoes, hats, jewellery) for the Austrian Federal Theaters (read more about them here.) I always imagined it as some kind of gigantic wardrobe, filled to the top with the most beautiful clothes from every epoc. Let me tell you: That’s exactly what it is. But there is so much more to discover!

I had about 2 hours to browse and after just half of the time, I was already exhausted and couldn’t really digest anything anymore. Hundreds, no, thousands of clothes are kept in the fundus: dresses from the middle ages to the present, undergarments (petticoats, crinolines, corsages, camisoles), shoes in boxes underneath the costumes, cupboards filled with hats and all different kinds of headdresses.

They had wonderful 40ies inspired frocks, in beautiful rayons (I would like to know from where they got all their patterned fabrics – there were some really special prints!), servant’s dresses from the turn of the century, huge Biedermeier dresses (you’d probably say victorian), and all the way back to fluid, plisseed grecian robes. The physically oldest costumes they had were from the 50ies – silk kimonos from Madame Butterfly (see below – the red tulips on blue and white palms on light grey). Older ones are already in the archives of the theater museum, as they don’t get used anymore, unlike the rest of the stock.

Menswear is mostly militarian garments, with tons of different uniforms. Also, crazy renaissance jackets with insane details (frills! pleats! slitted! embroidered!) and many justaucorps with beautiful soutache decoration on cuffs and pocket flaps. You can probably tell, I went a little crazy in there….

My favourite part were probably all the fabrics. Printed or woven, they were so elaborate, detailed… Really special. All the different prints/patterns, right next to each other, looked amazing from afar – but even better in close-up. Embellishment is often faked (glued rather than sewn on, for example), but the fabrics are mostly ‘genuine’. Or treated in such a way that a simple cotton weave looks like the most expensive jaquard. A lot of knowledge and secrets go into these fabrics, something I’d like to learn and experiment with myself.

I took so many pictures, because I wanted to remmber everything – and I didn’t even see it all. I could literally spend weeks in there, looking at the intricate details, the insides of the costumes (especially those!) and photograph and sketch it all – I could fill at least one thick sketchbook just with costume studies from the Art4Art fundus. Didn’t have the time to do that, though! I’m sharing the best pictures with you today – lighting was not great, but I think you’ll still understand my fascination with this place!

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4 thoughts on “Costume Heaven

  1. Dalia says:

    What a treat! I always swoon for this beautiful garments on stage, and wish I had places to wear them. In Graz there is an annual sale of their costumes, not the newest ones though, and I was a bit disappointed about the quality of the pieces and fascinated by the techniques at the same time.

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