This is the largest of Polish collections of extant historical textiles as it comprises over 20,000 artefacts. For preservation reasons the most valuable of them are only from time to time on public view at the Gallery of Decorative Art.
This collection includes a rich selection of liturgical vestments and sacral paramenta, dating from the early 14th to 20th centuries. The embroidered medieval and Baroque chasubles are unmatched in terms of artistry.
The 380 silk kontusz sashes in the Museum’s possession are the largest and most precious collection in the world. It includes sashes produced at all major Polish manufactories active in the second half of the 18th and in the 19th centuries, as well as sashes imported from Persia, Turkey and France.
The most magnificent and diversified foreign textiles are silks imported from Italy (15th century to the second half of the 17th century), France (late 17th to early 19th century), Persia and Turkey, not to mention a significant collection of Coptic textiles (4th - 9th century). Oriental rugs from Persia, Turkey, Caucasus and Central Asia, which form a distinct collection, were commonly used to decorate Polish homes. Polish art of carpet making is represented by a rare hand-knotted rug made of black and white wool (17th century) and 19th-century carpets bearing family crests. The Turkish, Persian and Polish kilims in the Museum’s holding are world-class objects.
The collection of costume and fashion accessories exceeds a thousand items, which trace the development of fashion from the Middle Ages to the early 20th century. The most interesting of them are: surviving parts of a man's outfit (made 1576) taken from a tomb in a Krakow church; gowns a la Levite, or women's dress overcoats from the late 18th century; Empire dresses, crinoline dresses, dresses designed in the 1880s and 1890s by Charles Frederick Worth, as well as bustles (or tournures), promenade dresses, evening gowns, ball gowns, walking and house dresses. They are accompanied by the indispensable accessories: purses, handbags, muffs, shawls, collars, fanchons, gloves, as well as underwear, a rare sight at museums. The Museum also acquired Helena Modrzejewska's theatre costumes.
This collection was compiled for over a hundred years through gifts and purchases. In 1903 Emeryk Hutten-Czapski donated a Polish kontusz outfit dated 1773, which had belonged to Jan Potocki, starost of Kaniow. His other gifts were Polish sashes, and oriental carpets and kilims. Some time later, Helena Budzynowska nee Dąbczańska presented Italian and French silk fabrics and embroideries. Stanisław Ursyn-Rusiecki contributed embroidered drapes dating to the late 17th century. The resources grew even more when superb bequests were received from Feliks Jasieński, Erazm Barącz and the Wenzl family, and object from the closing Museum of Technology and Industry in Krakow.
More information about the resources of this Department can be found in the following catalogues: Kobierce tureckie [Turkish carpets] (1983), Pasy wschodnie [Oriental sashes] (1990), Pasy francuskie [French sashes] (1994), Fans Of The Occident And Orient In The Collection of the National Museum in Krakow (2001), Perskie tkaniny jedwabne [Persian silk textiles] (2002) and the album Following Fashion Through the Ages. Garments from the Collections of the National Museum in Krakow from the ‘Treasures Of Our Collections’ series (2003).