Kafka was a fashion plate. Not only was he fastidious, he enjoyed looking his best. He aimed to please (and no doubt, impress) both the work place and society at large (he was quite the social animal, reputation aside). He was handsome, notable, and always looked far younger than he was. He dressed accordingly. He might not have been knowledgeable about the fashions in this article, but he would have been appreciative.
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A night out in Prague, in the early 20th Century
‘Prague’s Fashion Houses’ exhibit offers a look at what Czech high society was wearing in 1900-1948, couturiers behind the clothes
by Jacy Meyer
© Gabriel Urbánek, Ondřej Kocourek (UPM)A dress by the Hanna Podolská Couture House
Fashion as an art form has often been displayed at Prague’s Decorative Arts Museum. Now organizers are taking a step back to look at the fashion houses that produced such couture from 1900-1948.
“Over the past ten years we’ve prepared many exhibitions surrounding fashion, specifically Czech fashion pre-World War I and pre-World War II,” said Jana Ulipová, PR manager for the museum. “This one took three years to prepare; the curator, Eva Uchalová, studied lots on fashion using private and film archives, spoke with people who worked in these fashion houses and their relatives.”
The exhibition is divided into two parts; fashion houses from 1900-1918 are located on the second floor, with the designs from 1918-1948 —overall the more interesting — in the museum’s exhibition hall. Grouped by houses, not time period, the displays show the designers’ range.
From gold sequins and sparkles to matronly work wear, it is interesting to note the widely varying styles between houses, even from the same time period. Brief biographies of the houses give an historic placement to the dresses. You learn these fashion houses were family affairs, with sons, daughters and spouses all joining in.
The largest fashion houses copied the French model. A couturier (usually the owner) headed each, setting the style of the company and managing a team of designers, illustrators, saleswomen, models, cutters, tailors, dressmakers and seamstresses. Fashion shows in Paris were visited at least twice a year, from which owners and designers brought back designs, illustrations and photographs.
They purchased the right to reproduce the designs, plus made sketches from memory after the shows. This provided inspiration for their own designs, which formed the foundations of Prague fashion.