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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!

Building Thames

Building Thames

Building Thames by Althea Baker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ll bet some of you think that I have nothing better to do all day than hang around Goodreads!

And for the most part you would be right, but one afternoon a month I volunteer at my little town’s local museum. I sit there hoping we will have visitors. It is beyond boring, although it amusing to watch people get as far the doorstep, find there is an admission, & then back off. This is a real shame, as the kauri models of buildings crafted by Ted Egan are really worth the price of admission.

Most Kiwis love and treasure New Zealand kauri and Ted’s models are a homage to long gone buildings.

Most of the miniature buildings are in their own little gallery. There is a map of the old town on the floor.

Thames was originally three settlements – Grahamstown (& from ready this trusty little book I found out this settlement was named after a hotelier of the time) Shortland & the usually ignored Irishtown. It boomed because of goldmining (hard to believe now, but at one stage it was the second largest town in NZ) and had around 130 pubs. (pubs was probably a grand name for some of them, some of them were probably just tents where an enterprising soul sold beer from a flagon!)

Leafing through this little booklet had a tinge of sadness for me. So many of the old buildings were lost to fire – not that surprising, given that so many of them were pubs! But some were also pulled down – only the old clothing factory & one of the pubs since I’ve been here.

This book made me think about my town’s heritage – & in the week before Heritage Week, that is no bad thing.

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