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I too attended the 9th annual symposium of the Costume and Textile Association of New Zealand (http://www.costumeandtextile.co.nz/) and have been raving about this fantastic conference ever since. Thanks to Stella Lange, I learnt that knitters who stash their material use similar vocabulary to those of drug addicts. Apart from stash, there’s your (wool) dealers who assist in your habit as you become addicted in order to complete ‘just one more row’. I was also struck by the number of references to military history. From dresses worn at the time of the 1864 battle of Gate Pa, soldier dolls made for lost loves in the Great War, a souvenir doll of a ship later sunk in World War Two to moving accounts of families surviving during Nazi Germany, the theme of ‘hanging by a thread’ came through strongly. Creativity and more likely necessity saw outfits created from flags, curtains and other fabric remnants.
Rosemary McLeod’s talk about a post-World War Two hassock stuffed with over five kilograms of rags was a particular highlight. An examination of the contents revealed bits of lace curtains, stockings darned to death, children’s underwear made from adult’s clothing and embroidered doilies used as shoe polish rags. Like an archaeological survey, the reuse of items raises many questions about the changing circumstances of this family. Why did dainty embroideries become polishing rags? Did the 1930s depression followed by World War Two necessitate the careful reuse of fabric before finally consigning it as stuffing? Having once owned a similar hassock, I can only wonder about its contents.
A presentation about Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum’s forthcoming Australian Dress Register (http://www.powerhousemuseum.com/dressregister/) mentioned the inclusion of a tram destination-roll transformed into men’s underwear. References to underwear made from flour bags appears in an earlier Glorybox blog. (https://gloryboxtextiles.wordpress.com/2010/06/09/a-tale-of-two-sisters/). The Australian Dress Register is due to be launched in September and Auckland designer Doris de Pont (http://www/fashionmuseum.org.nz) is developing an online New Zealand Fashion Museum.
Douglas Lloyd-Jenkins looked at the connection between knitwear and representation of gay men on television. From Glee to Ugly Betty, the wearing of jumpers tends to signal gay characters. We were then taken on a hilarious visual tour of knitting patterns and how men have been portrayed in some fairly hideous outfits. Inspired by Douglas’s talk, I found the following scary examples at a local op shop.
The presentations were enhanced by audience discussions particularly around context and conservation. Many historic outfits have been altered with little documentation about the changes made, leading to speculation about the life cycle of a piece. The exquisite restoration of costumes for the National Gallery of Australia’s (http://nga.gov.au/Home/Default.cfm) forthcoming Ballets Russes exhibition drew debate about whether repairs override the intentions of the designers who had made later modifications. Whatever your views are, this and the work of the Victoria Tapestry Workshop (http://www.victapestry.com.au/news_index.aspx) makes for compelling reasons to visit Australia. But before then, join the Costume and Textile Association of New Zealand (http://www.costumeandtextile.co.nz) so that you can become involved with a really interesting group of people.