There is no denying the fact that fashion has existed for as long as humanity. The nature of fashion, however, has been subject to change – from functional to elaborate – and is largely reflective of the culture of the times. Throughout history, fashion has been both a way to influence society as well been influenced by global issues. Take for example the practical womenswear that sprouted as a result of the World War. As men took to the frontlines, women were required to take over their jobs, from farming to working in factories, which resulted in the gradual conversion of the flowing lines of the Edwardian era to more functional clothing like trousers and skirts. The war and the ensuing shortage of fabrics further emphasized the need for simple, practical clothing.
Fashion, as we know it today, is a result of a long evolutionary process spanning over centuries. Historical recordings help us understand the fashion of an era, with their chronology preserved and displayed in fashion museums around the world. Whether you’re a fashion history buff or simply looking for a better understanding of the evolution of clothing and accessories, Savoir Flair has put together a list of must-visit museums for fashion enthusiasts. Scroll down to discover the fashion museums that deserve a spot on your bucket list.
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Housing the world’s largest and most comprehensive garment collection, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London is an absolute must-visit for anyone who wants to understand the evolution of fashion throughout history. Spanning over five centuries, the visual chronology of garments highlights the most important changes in European fashion between the 17th and 20th centuries. The most fascinating items in the museum include rare 17th-century gowns, 18th-century ‘Mantua’ dresses, 1930s eveningwear, and couture from the post-war era. Other key items include the 19th-century garments worn by the elite in India, China, and Japan. The awe-inspiring collection also includes a range of accessories from around the world.
Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto
Shoes can now be instantly delivered to your front door hours after a new collection drops. But have you ever wondered about how shoes, as we know them, came to be? What function did they serve for our ancestors? Whether you’re interested in the history of footwear or are simply obsessed with shoes, The Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto definitely earns a spot on your bucket list. Home to over 13,000 artifacts spanning over 4,500 years, this is the perfect place to study the history of shoemaking, as well as the changing habits, lifestyles, and customs surrounding footwear around the world.
From French chestnut-crushing boots to Japanese Samurai warrior shoes, the museum hosts artifacts from virtually every culture in the world. The museum’s archaeological collection includes footwear from some of the earliest civilizations to walk the earth. The most popular items, however, include a range of celebrity footwear, featuring Queen Victoria‘s ballroom slippers, Elton John‘s monogrammed silver platform boots, Elvis Presley‘s patent blue loafers, John Lennon‘s Beatle boot, and Karen Kain‘s ballet shoes among others.
The museum is currently hosting a fascinating virtual exhibition, Standing TALL: The Curious History of Men in Heels, that explores the usage and meaning of heeled footwear in men’s dress over the last four hundred years.
Musée Yves Saint Laurent, Paris
Escape into surrealism as the Musée Yves Saint Laurent takes you back in time to the luxury house’s golden Haute Couture days. Located in the heart of Paris, in the same building where Yves Saint Laurent spent 30 years designing his collections, the museum celebrates the life and work of the legendary couturier by alternating between permanent and temporary thematic displays.
The museum focuses not only on the designer’s creative genius, but also allows visitors an up-close-and-personal look at the couturier’s office space and his work process. The invaluable information preserved at the Musée Yves Saint Laurent includes hand-drawn sketches by the designer with a handwritten description of each piece, a textile swatch, and collection boards.
Simone Handbag Museum, Seoul
Designed to look like a purse, the Simone Handbag Museum in Seoul is dedicated to preserving the history of handbags while simultaneously exploring current and future trends. The museum features two wings – the ‘Historical Hall’ and the ‘Modern Hall’– showcasing handbags that reflect different historical time periods, with the highlight being the rare pockets of the 1500s. Focusing on how handbags contribute to establishing a woman’s identity, the museum helps provide an understanding of the cultural evolution of handbags.
Musée Christian Dior, Granville
Located in Granville, Christian Dior‘s childhood home is a cliff-top belle epoque style house overlooking the sea. In 1997, all the floors of the house were converted to a museum dedicated to the couturier and his work. Not only does the Musée Christian Dior house the exquisite work of Dior himself, but also that of other designers — Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, John Galliano, and more — who designed for the Maison.
Museo Gucci, Florence
Gucci currently enjoys the status of one of the most sought-after labels of our times. Few of us, however, are familiar with the Italian powerhouse’s journey in becoming the giant it is today. Museo Gucci in Florence is a museum dedicated to understanding the evolution of the label and exploring the key shifts in fashion through Gucci’s design archives.