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Old Times Museum: Gentle Beauty of Cruel England

Maybe after watching movies or reading books like Gone with the Wind, Jane Eyre or Pride and Prejudice, you might want to dive into 19-20 centuries the same as I usually do. But how can you do it? For Praguers, there is an excellent opportunity to go to the Old Times Museum, which is located in one of the most popular areas in Prague – Mala Strana.

The exhibition Gentle Beauty of Cruel England runs until the 13th of October and illustrates the original costumes, accessories and other details of people particularly from 1850 to 1920. Moreover, the objects originally are not only from England but also from the US, Czech Republic, Australia, France, Canada, etc. The guides also turn on the old music related to those times, creating the atmosphere, as they also provide guests with imaginary situations, for example, tea-party in Victorian style. “People are usually surprised that they can be so close to everything and feel those times better,” says Zdenka Plchova the owner of the Old Times Museum.

And they can also see how memorial cards looked like, or even a sample of the marriage certificate issued in the Kingdom of Scotland in the 19th century between a couple who couldn’t do it in England. The parental consent was not needed in Scotland at any age; whereas England required signature usually from the bride’s father. There is also one of the dresses of Czech soprano Tereza Stolz, “she used to be Verdi’s muse’’, explains Plchova.

Women’s sizes of those times are shocking. The average size of the waist was 45 cm; the height was 160 cm maximum. However, men were also short compared to nowadays, -170 cm maximum. “We would love to wear dresses like this, we even tried to, but we are too big for them,” laughs Plchova, “Also we are scared to damage them” she adds. However, such a tiny waist was obtained by wearing lacing corsets from childhood, which obviously led to deformation of internal organs.

However, women slowly started getting rid of those “tortures”, as for instance, after the WWI (1920s) flapper dresses were created that were looser at the waist. In the course of time, we know that women’s rights have changed a lot. And that, of course, changed their dressing habits, for example, trousers and other “masculine” clothes became usual for women. In general, equality between genders somehow blurred the line between them. Old Times Museum shop offers original dresses and accessories from the 1920s and 30s or other actual objects for selling. This might help women of today to feel the times of “ladies and gentlemen’’.

Author: Daria S.

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