An afternoon discovering the Museums’ palaces and grounds of a country property known as quinta dos museus – a friendly designation for a unique space in Lisbon – it is certainly a worthwhile outing for a week day or on a week-end, a pleasant and special experience.

In the old country property known as quinta da duquesa (the duchess’ villa), as mentioned in the cartography at the beginning of the XX century, are situated two museums, the National Museum of Costume (Museu Nacional do Traje) at the Angeja-Palmela Palace and the National Theatre Museum (Museu Nacional do Teatro) at the Monteiro-Mor Palace, integrated in a walled property known at present as the Monteiro-Mor Botanic Park. Certainly worth an afternoon visit!

At the Palácio Angeja-Palmela, the National Museum of Costume offers an exhibition on the history of costume, in a building that is in itself worth a visit. Once through the gates, the visitor discovers a pleasant inner patio from which one can see the palace’s main façade. The access to the exhibition on the History of Costume is through the main arcade and up the main staircase. One notices a recurrent decorative motif: the eagle. This symbols is effectively represented firstly on the exterior – on the lamps that flank the central arch of the narthex through which one enters – also present in various rooms, curiously and always just on the stuccoes.

On the first floor, the tour can start either with the Barroque and Rocaille Costumes or with those of the Empire Period: in reality, the collection of costumes of that period, given their antiquity and the preservation requirement of the fabrics, make rotational exhibition periods mandatory. During these resting periods, the Museum presents temporary exhibitions of its collections with a transversal and specialised approach that allows for a broader and more encompassing view, to show their different aspects to the public. The interior decoration of the main salon, with its seventeenth century tile wainscots representing scenes from the daily life of rural nobility or fluvial landscapes as well as more intimist paintings on the door panels and the cupboard doors in the next room draw attention. These predispose the visitor to concentrate and take a closer look at the costumes dating from the period of the Empire Style to the Belle Époque, as well as those of the Romantic period. Because these represent costumes worn by the upper classes whose prestige came from power and fortune, it is in this typology that we find the fashionable trends reflected, financial wealth allowing their owners to follow the evolution and trends that took place in that field in the great urban centres, in particular Paris. The presentation of undergarments explains how resorting to complementary solutions to outer clothing allowed for the creation of volumes that defined the silhouette in these various styles and also represented are the ways of dressing inside the home. Nevertheless, it is in the rooms dedicated to the clothes worn throughout the XX century that the evolution of fashion and silhouettes, lengths of skirts, the introduction of new items and new materials is more noticeable, documenting in a very evident way the continuous and accelerated technological evolution of man and society that has led us to a globalization in which fashion and costume also play a part.

The visit to the exhibition, in the soft light that the textiles require, make a walk throughout the Botanic Park desirable. From the historic garden to the rosarium, in front of the National Theatre Museum, a suggestion for the next visit, with a return path through the meadows and woods, without forgetting the urban vegetable plots, a project that the National Museum of Costume has been developing with the local community for the last three years.