Escapades into Costume Care

What I love about my job is coming into contact with the various community collections around the state and uncovering interesting and often significant items in unlikely places. Costume collections and their care seem to have been an overriding theme recently.

During our visit to the South East back in June, we got to see the newly opened costume display at Millicent Living History Museum which features a selection of around 80 items from their newly acquired Helen Hughes costume collection, (formerly housed in Lobethal). These treasures included a 1913 outfit that had been made at John Martin’s department store in Adelaide in 1913 for Miss Daisy Bates, then the first woman Honorary Protector of Aborigines.  However, this was only the tip of the iceberg, for behind the scenes, one of the memorable items was a wonderful black beaded dress that was purported to have been worn at Federation in Melbourne in 1901.  More photos of the visit can be seen here 

On the same trip we visited Mount Gambier History Group which is based in a former school building.  We were not expecting to find costume as the majority of the collection is local archives and photographs although there are also a few related artefacts.  However when the group’s secretary, Lynn Lowe announced that that they had a pre-federation military uniform in their collection we just had to see it!  The black pants and scarlet woollen jacket were a little worse for wear but the gold braid and brass buttons were intact.  The raised SAR on the buttons indicated that the uniform might date from 1880/90s while the pants still had the Parker & Co of King William Street label on the inside waistband.  A quick search on Trove showed that Parker & Co were renowned tailors & outfitters at 66 King William Street next to the Imperial Hotel.  We showed Lynn how to pack the costume in a box using acid-free tissue for safe keeping until the group could access a correctly sized textile box. More photos of the visit can be seen here 

My final jaunt into all things textile was on a trip to the Barossa Museum at Tanunda a little later in June. Accompanying Kristin Phillips, Principal Textile Conservator at Artlab Australia, we were assisting the museum volunteers remove some fragile costumes from display mannequins.  Barossa Museum has some unique, late 19th/early 20thcentury black wedding dresses, typical of the German Lutheran tradition.  These I was keen to see but I was not prepared for the luscious, almost fluorescent pink bodice from the Edwardian era that was one of the other items that needed cleaning and rehousing.  More photos of the visit can be seen here 

Did I mention before that I love my job!

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