Time travel with style

A dress from the reneissance and a dress by Dorothea Michalk and a pair of bluejeans by Ruttloff Denim
Rüstkammer/Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden/Foto: Elke Estel/Hans Peter Klut; Dorothea Michalk; Ruttloff Denim

Dresdeners have always had a feel for grand entrances and the impact of a perfect gown. Today, young designers provide for us commoners as well. Time travel with style. By Maren Soehring

Clothes not only make the man …

… they also shape whole dynasties. The shimmering satin was imported from Italy, of course. The fine lace in gold and silver thread, on the other hand, was made by the greatest lace makers in our native Saxony, while the design is essentially Italian: the fashion business in the Renaissance period was already an international one, and the shimmering gold and salmon pink dress of Magdalena Sibylla of Saxony the dernier cri around 1610. We do not know what the occasion was on which the Electress wore this gown, but the costly garment is certain to have made a great impression on all those present. That the rulers of Saxony were not only fully aware of their power but fashion-conscious, too, can be seen in the new exhibition at the Royal Palace ‘The Electoral Wardrobe’. The Dresden State Art Collections have brought out of storage 27 spectacular and valuable showpieces and restored them with loving attention to detail. It took seven years, with support from the Abegg Foundation, simply to restore the robe, skin-tight doublet, shorts and hose belonging to Elector Moritz. It was tailor-made for the 164-centimetre-tall Prince by Nicol Basemer, head designer at the Wettin court around 1550.

I get my inspiration from old magazines and films, and also from this neighbourhood with its historic town houses, wealth of small shops and workshops.

Silvia Klos, owner of the couture label ‘Calesco’

His modern successors reside today on the other side of the Elbe, in the baroque quarter of Neustadt. Silvia Klos and her couture label ‘Calesco’ have a showroom and atelier in Obergraben street. Calesco is Latin for ‘I am growing warm’, and she specialises in heart-warming bridal fashion. Brides come from all over Germany to be dressed by her and they often combine the purchase of a silk and Plauen lace wedding dress with a short break. Klos’s timeless and sophisticated creations often refer back to bygone eras. “I get my inspiration from old magazines and films, and also from this neighbourhood with its historic town houses, wealth of small shops and workshops.”

Around the corner in Rähnitzgasse, Dorothea Michalk runs the label that bears her name. Originally from Bautzen, she specialises in dresses for formal occasions and as such is regarded as the court dressmaker of Dresden society. All her gowns are handmade in Dresden and Michalk and her two employees regularly work all hours to get garments completed for the Semper Opera Ball, with the Textima sewing machine manufactured in the former GDR that she inherited from her grandmother clattering through the night in her open atelier.

She finds ideas for her designs in nature and on her travels. Often it is the fabrics – gossamer fine chiffons and delicate lace – that conjure up shapes and designs in her head. She sources her precious fabrics from all over Europe. Her most expensive silk comes from England, from James Hare, a traditional British company that also supplies the British royal family. It is priced by the gram! A pricing policy that would probably have been familiar to the Electors. After all, their sumptuous garments were interwoven with real gold thread.

Dorothea Michalk

Store & Atelier, Rähnitzgasse 18

Calesco Couture

Silvia Klos, Obergraben 11

The electoral wardrobe

Opening of the permanent exhibition in the Royal Palace

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