Lizzy Rys

is a doctoral student at the Technical University of Darmstadt where she researches fashion on Belgian World Fairs of the Nineteenth Century. She obtained her Master in Art History at the Ghent University in 2023.

In her master’s thesis, “Mrs. D’Aubreby Van Swae”, a case study of a Brussels couturière in nineteenth-century Belgium (1829-1902)”, as well as in her bachelor paper “Maison Lipman, a forgotten couturier”, she examined the work of a thus far unknown fashion house and its position in the broader fashion scene of the late Nineteenth Century, respectively Brussels and Paris.

During her work, Rys combined archival, as well as object-based research, experience which she acquired during her internship at Fashion museum Hasselt in 2022.

Publications and Lectures

Belgian Fashion at Belgian World's Fairs (1897-1913): A Critical Analysis (working title)

As a part of the World Fairs project, Rys aims to investigate the role of fashion and textiles in the International Exhibitions held in Belgium between 1897 and 1913. An analysis of the way in which Belgium presented its textiles and fashions (ready-made garments or confection) during these World Fairs, and a comparison to other neighboring countries such as France, the Netherlands and Germany, will provide a first look at the interplay between fashion, nationalism, and globalization around the turn of the century in Belgium.

A comparison of four expositions will be conducted through the fashion sections, the Colonial Pavilions and the presented fashion in pavilions of other countries.A broader look at the size of the fashion sections, the number and style of the shown garments aims to construct a more detailed context of Belgian fashion history at these Exhibitions.

Researching the recurring dressmakers whose work was presented on multiple occasions gives an indication of which ones were considered representative of Belgian fashion at that time. Looking at Belgian textile producers, or dressmakers, that had profitable economic relations with Congo between 1897 and 1913, or lack thereof, shines a light on the influential figures in this colonial story.

By doing this, the direct influence of colonialism on the Belgian fashion industry becomes clear. The ways in which Congolese garments and fabrics were displayed, and received by the public is something that can inform as well on how colonialism and racism manifested itself in these areas.

By looking at several topics over the course of these four expositions, changes in Belgian (colonial) fashion discourse will become visible. Rys’ study looks at Belgian (colonial) history from a fashion and textile perspective; how these mediums were used by the nation to present itself at International Expositions. Her research also forms an opportunity to gain a better understanding of Belgian fashion in the long nineteenth century, offering concrete information on its important figures and the role they played in fashioning colonial Belgium.