"Secese v Nedbalkach" - women of Prostejov exhibit their early 20th century negligees

Theatre association Historia, photo: www.klubduha.cz

The "National Theatre House" in the Moravian town of Prostejov - a centre of the Czech clothes industry - has just put some unusual items on display. The Art Nouveau house of culture, which was built in 1907, is exhibiting negligees from the early 20th century. The owners of the elegant dressing gowns are the town's residents themselves. Dita Asiedu reports:

Eva Suchankova
For almost two decades the theatre association Historia has been dedicated to keeping the history of the eastern Moravian town of Prostejov alive. Using costumes and props that are often donated by the town's residents, it regularly stages theatre performances that depict historical events and legends connected to Prostejov. Historia is one of the organisers of the exhibition and its president Eva Suchankova is the exhibition's curator:

"Our theatre group Historia has been around for 16 years and in that time the wonderful women of Prostejov showered us with donations - their personal belongings. These gifts are real treasures. They vary from suits and shoes to toiletries and accessories. The public has seen most of these treasures but was never given a chance to admire the beautiful negligees. There are many of them and they were stored in boxes. We started washing and ironing them in July and finished this morning."

The name of the exhibition is "Secese v Nedbalkach" or "Art Nouveau in Negligees", which in the early 20th century were beautiful light dressing gowns decorated with lace and ribbons. They were worn to match with the interior decoration of the room that the women lived in...

"In the time of the reform movements women wanted to wear wide skirts. Under these skirts they wore bloomers that were pretty much like the underpants worn by men. They came down to their knees. But in the rococo period, they were no longer elegant and considered suitable for only older women, servants, and dancers. When women wore skirts and turned around, their legs were visible. So, the underwear was brought all the way down to the ankles."

With part of the National Theatre House still under renovation, the exhibition can only run until Monday. But Eva Suchankova hopes it will be long enough to remind the residents of Prostejov that there still are true gems hidden - and collecting dust - deep inside their closets:

"These are very delicate gowns that were hand sown by our great great grandmothers. What we don't have is evening and morning caps. For some reason, our women didn't hold onto them. But we have day and evening gowns and open and closed bloomers. We also have some of the pure lace that they used. I have a beautiful piece of lace from a countess of the Kinski nobility - it's a handkerchief that only few women were able to afford at the time. On this particular one, we can tell that the countess mended it a number of times because it was so valuable to her."