Used But Not Abused

Vintage Clothing Looks Anything But Old

By Paul Pastore

Courtesy of Fashion Museum

Just behind the Old Town Square is Fashion Museum, a one-of-a-kind clothing store full of used threads. The work put into to each garment for sale, and the store’s reverence for fashion history, is what sets Fashion Museum apart from other Prague thrift stores in the area.  In the words of the store’s dressmaker, Ellen, what sets Fashion Museum apart is that “there are not many vintage stores around Prague, most of the stores are just second hand shops that don’t have things as old the ones we have from the thirties and forties.”

The narrow space that the store occupies is divided in half with clothing for sale occupying the right side and the small museum to the left. The store’s retail selection showcases how the in-house dressmaker restores each garment. Ellen mends, washes, steams, and alters each every item until it is fully wearable again. The clothes that the store acquires are always bought with all the decorative elements, like buttons, collars, and ruffles intact. The only thing that Ellen adds is new mechanical elements to make the clothes functional like zippers. As for how long it takes to restore an item Ellen says, “the time that it takes to restore each garment depends on the condition of the item when we get it and how old it is. It varies.” The dressmaker, who is also one of the stores owners, refused to provide her last name, perhaps due to modesty or some other mysterious reason.

“The work put into to each garment for sale, and the store’s reverence for fashion history, is what sets Fashion Museum apart from other Prague thrift stores in the area.”

Though most of the clothing for sale is around 50 years old, the shop does excellent work to make the items look new again. After the process of restoration is completed, a an individual label is made for each item. The labels have both a photo of the garment and the garment’s decade of origin. You would be hard pressed to find a thrift store that gives its merchandise such attention. Ellen won’t say exactly where she finds the clothes that she restores. She would only say that she spends a lot of time on the Internet and driving to second hand wholesale markets. This probably accounts for the wide variety of clothes that can be found at Fashion Museum. You can find everything from sophisticated evening-wear to flower-power chic maxi dresses.

One item that caught my eye was a cropped tuxedo jacket. The fabric is a soft and luxurious iridescent purple that slightly shimmers in the light. The hem of the jacket is just at the waist making it perfect to pair with an evening dress. It would make a great pairing another item on Fashion Museum’s racks, a flamboyant 1980s party dress. The body of the dress is pink with purple ruffles and a purple sash. The color of the fabric is so vibrant that it looks new. But if you’re looking to be a little more subdued than a an early ’80s Madonna moment, there are also plenty of items from the ’60s and ’70s that will cater to your hippie side.

“Though most of the clothing for sale is around 50 years old, the shop does excellent work to make the items look new again.”

Another remarkable part of the store is its collection of vintage hats. Most of the ladies’ hats for sale are from the ’30s and ’40s when felt or velvet with a feather attachment was in vogue. To make them look like new, Ellen steams on a mannequin head to make them regain their original shape, and mends them. Since in those days women used pins to attach hats to their heads she also often adds a strap so that they’re easier to wear. They make the perfect finishing touch on winter and fall looks. One sleek blue felt hat with a long white plume was particularly fetching.

Fashion Museum’s prices are reasonable considering that so much craftsmanship and detail-work is involved in their renovation. Dresses cost around 1,000 kc, (roughly $50) while blouses cost about 700 CZK. Shoes go for around 1,200 CZK. Hats and accessories range from 500 to up to 3,000 CZK for some of older pieces. Generally items from the 1930s and 1940s can cost to 3,000 CZK more expensive than the stores more recent items because clothing from those decades extremely rare. Often when Ellen acquires an item that old she can’t sell it because it is too fragile. Her golden rule is “if it’s too fragile to wash I don’t like to sell it.” But with all of her items for sale, she is more flexible. If the item doesn’t exactly fit they also offer free alterations. Most of the items are also available in Fashion Museum’s online shop.

Courtesy of Fashion Museum

The price of clothing ranges from 1,ooo-3,000 koruna. Photo courtesy of Fashion Museum

The museum half of Fashion Museum is set up with equal care. The exhibit is organized to show the evolution of fashion through the 20th century. Sectioned off by decade, the articles of clothing range from the 1920s until the 1980s. For each decade there is a mannequin dressed in clothes from the era with accessories on tables in front of them. What the mannequins are wearing varies based on the time period being showcased. Currently the display is devoted to the development of the “little black dress.” In begins with the ’20s. There is a silk beaded flapper dress and ends with an ’80s satin gown that has exaggerated shoulders and countless ruffles. Behind the display is an elaborate info-graphic that shows the trends and major European and American designers of each period. The exhibits cycle out about every month.

Fashion Museum is relatively young; the store marked its one-year anniversary in March 2014. Six years prior to that, the owners Ellen and her partner Janran a more traditional second-hand store in the same location called Laly. Over the years they noticed their customers were asking them about the origins of clothes and about the history of fashion in general. So together they decided reincarnate their old second hand store as Fashion Museum. For Ellen the future of her passion project looks bright; “I see us moving to a bigger shop and expanding everything.”


Fashion Museum

Stupartska 3

Praha 1

Tuesday till Saturday
11am – 6pm
12am – 6pm


Paul Pastore is in the NYU CAS Class of 2015. His hometown is New York, New York. 


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Categories: Spring 2014 Issue Number 2

Author:The Prague Wandering

The Prague Wandering is an NYU based study abroad webzine- the only one of its kind. It focuses on issues in contemporary Czech culture and the city of Prague, exploring beyond the study abroad bubble.


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