Dressed: Fashionable Dress in Aotearoa New Zealand 1840 to 1910

by Clare Regnault

Rating: 5 out of 5.

(Deserved) Winner of the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards for Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand Award Illustrated Non-Fiction (2022)

I think this is the most beautiful book I have ever seen!

Just look at it! 

The delicate, soft pink used, the front cover lightly padded which just makes one want to stroke it!

It isn’t only the exterior that is well presented the photographs are beautifully done.

They often have a more detailed close up.

Some of the garments may look more like instruments from a torture chamber – a maternity corset (also to be used whilst breastfeeding- eek!)

This book doesn’t shy away from the controversial. The trade in feathers caused the extinction or near extinction of many species. I have no quarrel with feathers being used used for feather cloaks or for muffs (NZ/Aotearoa had no native animals, although my aging memory thinks a species of rat arrived with the Māori) and people have to keep warm somehow! I just hope this poor Huia wasn’t only killed for it’s beak!

In spite of efforts to protect it, the last known sighting of a Huia was 1907. [source:this book]

Towards the end of this book, clothing was changing for the more practical – some of the fashions in the early part of this book must have been a nightmare for these pioneering women!
Here is Māori nurse Hannah Hippolite wearing a shorter skirt – & knickerbockers were controversial, but popular.

This book is published by Te Papa (our national museum) & the end covers some of the techniques & difficulties in preserving these often fragile treasures. I volunteer at our local museum and know that we even need special mannequins to avoid the clothes being further damaged. I’m going to a meeting at the museum tomorrow & will try to take a picture of a couple of the wedding dresses we have just acquired.

I’m sure you have already guessed this, but I highly recommend this book!

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