The visit to the Museo del Traje was great, and Elvira Gonzalez, the conservator for the historical clothing collection, was absolutely fabulous.
The Museo del Traje is a little bit off the beaten path from the touristic areas. However, it is not that far out. It took a 20 minute ride in a cab to get there, and it's Metro accessible, particularly since it's on the University grounds.
As clothing museums go, this one is one of the best. I would say that it is as large as the Museo del Costume in Florence, and they have been collecting historical garments since before the Spanish Civil War. This means that they have a large collection of clothing that is stored in several warehouses, since there is no room in the museum to display it all. This doesn't mean that the Museo is in a small building -- far from it. They occupy a three story building, the second floor of which houses their permanent collection, and the bottom floors have the cafeteria, shop, library and temporary collections.
So first the bad news. I was not able to access the warehouses, since the vetting process would have taken months. Since Bob and I did not get around to arranging our travel until about a month or so before departure, there would simply have been no time to do this. The other bad news is that the piece I was interested in examining was not in display. Oh, and did I mention that no museum in Madrid will allow photography, even with no flash? Just like in Italy.
Now for the good news.
The good news is, however, that Elvira will send me any images I want from different angles, including the inside of the doublet. Moreover, because I qualified as a researcher, and I was with Elvira, I was allowed to take pictures of some pieces of the collection. They are mostly out of our period, but I don't care. They were terrific, and once you are hooked on fashion, you learn to appreciate all kinds of clothing. As for sharing them, I was told that as long as it was for my personal blog or website, and not commercial purposes, it was okay. So at one point or another, I will share them with you.
The other good news is that now I have made a great contact in Elvira, who also told me that they do have some non-fancy clothing, which regular people would have worn, in their warehouses. The thing is, those they don't normally display them as what people want to see is the sparkly "Princess Diana" kind of thing. They also have an extensive button collection, including 16th Century ones. Bob and I are already making plans for the next trip. And this time, we will request the permission to visit the warehouses in advance.
By the way, she also told me that for French clothing my best bet was not Paris, but Lyon. And she knows the curator over there, so she'll hook me up with him. The other place to go, is Kyoto, where she tells me the largest collection of historical clothing resides. She will connect me with those guys as well.
In the end, she and I had a great time talking and comparing notes. One of the things that came up was the fact that there are a number of skills that are dying out. Even modern designers complain that they can't find experienced artisans that know how to do proper embroidery and beading for their haute couture designs. And this is not as bad as what is happening with more ancient skills, such as bobbin lace. That's when I told her that the latter art is being kept alive by reenactors and historical nuts like people in the SCA.
It made me feel so good, the fact that we are helping to keep alive art forms that were in fashion hundreds of years ago and that might otherwise be lost or, at least, forgotten.
All in all, it was a good trip. I will be posting more about the rest of it later since, as you can imagine, a pile of work has been waiting for me after more than a week of absence.
I can hear the whip cracking.