In this feature, a selection of guest contributors respond to an image or material artefact (typically a garment or accessory), that represents Queensland fashion. Each item is specifically chosen by The Fashion Archives in collaboration with collections and with a particular contemporary practitioner in mind. As a result, each Remember of Revive is a bespoke response and can take many formats and styles.
Paula Dunlop has a special interest in the history of home dressmaking practice. With this in mind, The Fashion Archives invited the designer and dressmaker to respond to a fancy dress costume that was hand-made in circa 1885. It’s just one of many interesting historical garments held in the Miegunyah House Museum collection.
The costume is comprised of a velvet corseted bodice with a lace trim, and a quilted skirt that features a series of dark and arcane symbols, including skull and crossbones, devils and snakes. Made out of a variety of fabrics, perhaps whatever was on hand, the appliqué motifs have been hand stitched around the skirt.
As not much is known about the provenance of the costume, we can only presume that it was produced for a special occasion, such as a fancy dress party. Jenny Steadman, Vice-President of the QWHA at Miegunyah House Museum points to newspaper records of the late 19th century that detail, “fancy dress parties for the children of prominent citizens and for adults and dignitaries including Lady Lamington and Lady Musgrave. We know that Mrs. Perry hosted a party for her young daughter, Mabel at the School of Arts building in Ann St. This was written up as a huge event. The dress is very detailed in its finish so this would indicate it was worn at a special party. It is very small so possibly made for a child, adolescent, or young woman”.
Paula worked from photographs of the garment. Directly manipulating these images, she produce a collage which would form a pattern for a beaded assemblage. Paula Dunlop writes:
This work-in-progress is more a response to the documentation of the garment—in particular, the light, form and colour of the fabrics as they were photographed. The images that caught my attention most were the detailed shots of the appliqued motifs on the skirt. These hand-stitched motifs— a ghoulish masquerade of red dancing devils, golden snakes, crimson moons and horned masks—sit atop an emerald green quilted satin background. The photographs are bright and highlight the sheen of the satin.
The use of these images connects to recent work of mine that also draw upon motifs sourced from clothing. In these works, I created fabric collages from colours and motifs taken from second-hand children’s t-shirts, before meticulously beading over the top with glass seed beads. For the Miegunyah piece I followed a similar process, but in place of creating a fabric collage I instead created a digital collage from the photographs. I then printed the collage onto calico, and beaded over the top of the printed image.
I think the vibrancy of the beads echo the intensity of the colours of the garment in the photographs. In creating a hand-stitched beaded image there is also a nice connection to both the 2D photographs and the hand-stitching on the original appliqued motifs.
Published in Issue 3, on September 24, 2013.