The goal of the “Theatrum Mulierum” exhibition is not only to present the reconstructed women’s clothing, but also the attempt to bring about a reflection on the ways of depicting a woman in 16th and 17th century. Direct inspiration, which gave this exhibition its title, range and character was a work by Jost Amman, published in 1586 by the name “Gynaceum sive theatrum mulierum”, containing 122 woodcuts, showing the european women’s fashion. Albums with attires, called trachtenbuchs, gained a vast popularity in 16th century, preceeded by, created even in the 1st half of the century, studies of Albrecht Dürer, Hans Holbein or Urs Graf. Amongst the most famous trachtenbuchs were “Habitus praecipuorum populorum tam virorum quam foeminarum singulari arte depicti”, publ. in Nuremberg in 1577, “Habits de diverses nations de l’Europe, Asie, Afrique et Amérique“, publ. in Anvers in 1581, “Degli habiti antichi e moderni di diverse parti del Mondo” by Cezare Vecelli publ. in Venice in 1590. The next century also wasn’t lacking in those kind of publications, one could name an „Aula Veneris–Theatrum Mulierum” series with copper-plates by Václav Hollar, or a set of townswomen’s clothing of Gdańsk – “Omnium statuum foeminei sexus ornatus, et usitati habitus Gedanenses…”, (1601 r.).
The exhibition shows, next to the attires of wealthy noblewomen of France, England, Italy and Poland, clothing of townswomen and servants, next to the garments of women from Poland, clothing of German women of fashion. Pious nun is accompanied by a witch in a plain peasant clothes – profession of the latter betrayed only by tiny accessories. Attires of women formed themselves under influence of local tastes and customs, taking, at the same time, as it was needed or fancied, from the rich and varied stock of foreign fashions.
Trachtenbuchs show diffusions of fashion, with simultaneous attachement to local clothing, deeply set in the local culture and customs. They are also a precious example of human’s interest for the world and different people inhabiting it, which he got to know through clothing. In those publications, a significant role is given to the women, whose clothing and characters were meticulously described. In a “theatre” thus created, every woman played a specific role, determined by her provenance, age, position and profession. It was a manifestation of a fixed social model in functioning, in which everyone had his assigned place, in which preservation many has seen a guarantee of safety.