Black clothing has become a ubiquitous choice for the twentieth century adult. Yet in the nineteenth century black clothing had specific associations and uses. The black garments on the Australian Dress Register show both the versatility of black and how its use in fashion gradually changed during the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century.
Inside the Collection
Most cultures differentiate between male and female dress - in fabric, colour, style and accessories. In western culture, gender differentiation in dress has gradually changed. Many entries on the Australian Dress Register reflect the evolution of distinctions between men, women and children’s dress in the 19th century and into the 20th century.
The Museum has been working with regional organsiations and communities to create the Australian Dress Register, a collaborative, online project about dress in New South Wales pre 1945. This includes men's, women's and children's clothing ranging from the special occasion to the everyday.
When you walk through the Love Lace exhibition its apparent how important lighting is to the successful display of these works. The Museum electrician Peter Hermon says This was a unique exhibition to work on, we had more time to work on the lighting (and wiring) and the nature of the work was different, shadows were really important and the lighting needs more particular.
Much work has been going on in the Conservation department in preparation for the upcoming Love Lace International Lace Award and exhibition. There are some wonderful pieces in the exhibition and the variety of materials is amazing.
Discovering the many aspects of one woman’s career was one of the most interesting aspects of my 20 day internship at the Powerhouse Museum. Under the supervision of Curator Anne-Marie Van de Ven I’ve just finished cataloguing the Janice Wakely modelling and photography archive.
Anyone who has read Jenny Kee's fascinating biography A Big Life Jenny Kee (Jenny Kee with Samantha Trenoweth, Penguin Group, 2006) will appreciate how apt the title is. From modelling as the face of Canadian Pacific Airlines and spending a memorable night with John Lennon during the Beatles Australian tour in 1964 to selling vintage Schiaparelli jackets to Mick Jagger at the Chelsea Antique market in London, surviving the Granville train disaster in 1977 and campaigning for the conservation of NSW old growth forests Jenny’s adventurous spirit and creativity has seen her involved in many of the key social movements and events of the last fifty years.
Eagerly anticipated, the Australian Dress Register (ADR) went live on 21 March 2011. To date only contributors have had access to the pilot database; now it’s fascinating content is available to the wider community.
Walking through the Powerhouse’s storage area the other day, I stopped off to have another look at some of my favourite textiles in the collection. They are the amazing Kuba dancing skirts, made in what was once the Belgian Congo and is now Zaire, in Central Africa, and worn by Kuba women at community ceremonial events associated with birth, marriage and death.
Why does hair appear in the most unlikely places? Like this man's shirt from the Cameroons. Or worked into this unique needle lace panel from the 1600s. That hair has been readily available as a material is one answer.
The assigned value and significance of objects is in a state of perpetual flux. Evolving digital technologies (like the potential to create high resolution scans from original negative and positive formats and distribute these over the web) contributes to, engages with and draws attention to this constant process of change.
There’s more history in a button than you’d think. As a volunteer helping with the Australian Dress Register, I compiled information on the history of fastenings as a resources sheet for the Register’s website.