While a few decades ago people wearing traditional peasant clothing – such as women in multiple layers of peasant skirts from the “gardener” villages around the capital – were a common sight at larger food markets in Budapest and on suburban trains of Gödöllő line, nowadays we seldom see them anymore. Women from Szék – mostly in their fifties, wearing their black and red garments, working as cleaners in Budapest – are the last community to wear traditional clothing. What will remain after they are gone? Fashion that follows global trends? Will there, indeed, can there survive anything of traditional clothing, which used to be rich in meaning and communicated everything about the age, marital and social status of its wearer, even the occasion for which it was worn? What will be the afterlife of this once rich historical and peasant tradition of dressing? Will it only survive in folk dance productions, carnivals, village tourism and museum exhibitions? Will the new generation manage to find festive occasions to wear these clothes and realize the community and identity shaping power of local costume, especially in regions where the demise of folk art only transpired in the very recent past? Another question is, why there is not a supportive consensus about elevating some of the costumes that possess a rich tradition to a certain rank, like that of the Styrian, Tyrolean or Scottish dress is appreciated by their own societies.
While in the 1970s and 1980s the young dance house generation wore traditional items over their jeans, such as peasant shirts, waistcoats, jackets, woven bags, all of which were easy to acquire in rural areas and at country fairs, the last 20 years saw more and more people wearing tailor-made or limited edition craft and designer items which in one way or another (form, cut, material, color, ornamentation) reference the traditions of an ethnographic area. Is there a conscious intent, a desire for self-expression behind them? Or is it rather about individual taste, cyclically resurrected ethnic fashion trends, momentary fashion ideas, or, on the contrary, anti-fashion?
The answer to the question can be formulated by each visitor. The aesthetics of the reconstructed costumes in this room and the today’s modern dresses reflect on each other and speak of the encounter of the tastes of people in the past and in the modern age. Visitors can decide whether they find attractive the creatively redesigned forms, materials and patterns, the reborn felt technology, the cuts that evoke the past while being tailored for modern use. Will they discover the originality that a custom-made, personalized, sophisticated craft garment, accessory or jewelry can offer vis-à-vis the multitude of shoddy seasonal clothes found in big stores?