Contemporary Clothing Chart

7/Nov/2007 - 16/Mar/2008
As part of a recent focus on the contemporary world, Hungarian museums - through MaDok, a jointly organised research program and companion database - are venturing to identify the thematic areas that best reflect and describe contemporary culture. The purpose of preserving and exhibiting objects still in use today is to help visitors better understand the fast-changing, heterogeneous, day-to-day world around them, and to describe - using such means as a museum has at its disposal - cultural flows held to characterise or significantly impact the modern world.


During the past three years, museums have had the opportunity of enriching and expanding their collections in at least a few of the subject areas defined by the infinite hoards of objects to emerge from the present age. Of these, contemporary clothing has proven the most popular. The material that makes up the present exhibition on this theme has been brought in from the collections of museums all over Hungary. How can modern dress, types of clothing, fashion items, the ideas they express, and the cultural phenomena they communicate be put on exhibit? In general, an exhibition - above and beyond a juxtaposition of variously acquired articles - seeks to point out, to illuminate relationships or contradictions, or to put a perspective on objects of commonplace origin.

In this particular case, the key to charting out both trends in contemporary dress, and the relationships between the forms it takes, is the concept of the uniform: the manner in which the individual conforms to others, the expression of uniformity, and more specifically - or in contrast to this - the act of the individual's seeking out his or her path in life. The formal uniform, that which leads to the fullest system, is the type worn by members of the military. The type that has displayed the greatest resistance to change over time, however, is that of the clergy. In the armed forces, one's clothing is the subject of regulation no matter what the period or activity; a soldier is unimaginable without his or her uniform. No form of self-distinction is tolerated, to the extent that individual touches or modes of expression are prohibited even during times of rest or recreation. In fact, in the military, no infraction of the rules of any type is permitted. Originally, military uniforms were exclusively for men, with feminine forms developing only during the 20th century in a process that varied from country to country. A uniform fully defines the affiliations and social status of its wearer. Quasi-uniforms are worn according to less stringent guidelines and display an overall similarity that is shaped by social custom. Clothing of this type, while looking the part of a uniform, does allow for some individual style. Examples include the suits worn by politicians and businesspeople, and the occasional clothing worn to events such as graduation ceremonies and funerals.

In society today, it is common to dress entire institutions, organisations, and business enterprises in uniforms, a practice that unites work attire with corporate image. A third trend toward greater uniformity involves the formalisation of the dress worn by various age groups and social bodies in the interest of collective self-demarcation and self-expression. It is by this process that informal uniforms, outfits similar to each other in style, are created. The clothing chart on display here must be seen as an experiment, not as the final word in some meticulously co-ordinated and fully completed research project. Rather, it should encourage museums to continue to keep the culture of modern dress and its rich universe of social self-image and self-expression in the spotlight, and to give it continued attention as a subject for research.

Curators: Zoltán Fejős, Zsófia Frazon, Krisztina Sedlmayr, Magdolna Szabó, Andrea Vándor In cooperation with Budapesti Történeti Múzeum - Kiscelli Múzeum Déri Múzeum, Debrecen Gróf Esterházy Károly Kastély- és Tájmúzeum, Pápa Janus Pannonius Múzeum Néprajzi Osztály, Pécs Laczkó Dezső Múzeum, Veszprém Magyar Kereskedelmi és Vendéglátóipari Múzeum Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum Móra Ferenc Múzeum, Szeged Néprajzi Múzeum Palóc Múzeum, Balassagyarmat Rippl-Rónai Múzeum, Kaposvár Tragor Ignác Múzeum, Vác XVIII. kerületi Pedagógiai Intézet és Helytörténeti gyűjtemény