So imagine my excitement when, on a visit in 2011 I found a fashion exhibit in the center of Venice, of 18th and 19th century dresses on display at the Palazzo Mocenigo. The palazzo is itself a work of art, its origins Gothic and pre-17th century. The family Mocenigo were wealthy and important, and seven of them became doges – essentially dukes – of Venice between 1414 and 1778. In 2013 it was expanded and renovated, and it consists of more than 20 rooms on the first floor alone, each of them imbued with a sense of wonder and a certain quality of surreality, not unlike other Italian spaces in which history is both yesterday and right now.
Today the rooms have a newness to them that in an odd way blends and makes more present that sense of the past, and its collections ranging from clothing to perfume to paintings and sculptures and chandeliers, from glassware to tapestries to fans and photography depending on the season and the choice of the curators.
In 2011 the palazzo was just being renovated, and even so we were allowed to wander in, to experience the immersion in color and texture that was the exhibit showcasing clothing from Russia with more than 200 works, and they were astounding. I wandered the small rooms in which they were displayed and so taken was I by the silks and beads and draped sleeves and pleated skirts that I did not venture into the rest of the museum. The colors were muted, somehow, but not without a texture and a softness that begged for a touch, and in their very presence made me wish I could slip into one, walk the marble floors with the hem just whispering against the floor. I could almost feel the silk against my skin.