Saturday, September 12, 2015

Musings of a Textile Tragic
Introducing a New Co-Editor

Textile Fibre Forum (Issue 111, September, 2013)

When I became co-editor of Textile Fibre Forum (see below) I not only sourced half the articles of the magazine, but also wrote the occasional article myself and moreover, I created a regular column - "Musings of a Textile Tragic" - in order to address different issues that encompass textile and fibre art. For your convenience, I have listed links to other "Musings" articles that I penned, which appeared in the magazine.
Co-Editor of TFF
Of Fires and Flooding Rain
Lost in Translation
Venusian Men
The Artwork of Youth
Textile Tasters from My Workshops
Be Brave, The Rest Will Follow

I first became the co-editor of Textile Fibre Forum (TFF) magazine in the December 2013 issue. Janet De Boer was the founding editor of TFF and was the other co-editor. I published my column - Musings of a Textile Tragic - in an issue prior to my co-editorship and so it appeared in September issue of TFF in 2013. In order to complete the "Musings" series I have decided to "posthumously" publish the article on this blogspot.

If you have not read it, I hope you enjoy it!

For over thirty years Marie-Therese Wisniowski worked as a senior graphic designer and art director for some of Melbourne’s and Sydney’s leading advertising agencies (e.g. George Patterson Advertising etc.) In 1984 she moved to Newcastle and was employed by the University of Newcastle’s Medical Communication Unit and was responsible for their magazines and publications as well as developing the design of their multi-million dollar international HIVAids programme materials. Since that time she graduated from the University of Newcastle with a Bachelor of Fine-Arts, she became a casual lecturer in the Faculty of Education & Arts, a founding director of Art Quill & Co Pty Ltd and more importantly, specialized in fine-art prints on paper and cloth, which have been exhibited nationally and internationally.

She is the author of the books, ‘Not in My Name’ and ‘Beyond the Fear of Freedom’. Her written works have appeared in journals such as ‘Literature and Aesthetics’, ‘Craft Arts International’, ‘Textile Fibre Forum’, ‘Fibreline’, ‘Embellish’, ‘Down Under Textiles’ and ‘Quilting Arts’. She has also authored articles on websites such as ‘Pop Art Legitimizing Prints as an Art Medium – A Generator of Future Processes and Art Movements’ for the Exchange Partners in Print Media website. In 2007 she was invited to be the inaugural guest editor of the international e-zine ‘HeArtCloth Quarterly’.

For more resource information, art essays, student workshop outcomes and samples, art and exhibition reviews and more examples of her own work see Marie-Therese’s blog site.

Musings of a Textile Tragic (Issue 112, September 2013)
The Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre presented a vintage fashion fest on Sunday the 5th May 2013. The centrepiece of the fest was the exhibition - “After Five: Fashion from the Darnell Collection” - which featured stylistic moments in fashion from the 1920s onwards.

The vintage fashion program also included a “Wild Ones Autumn Market”, a vintage dress up photo booth, free vintage clothing evaluations, brooch making for mother’s day (children/adult activity), making mother’s day cards, film screenings and guided tours of the gallery.

Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre is in Gymea, a southern suburb of Sydney. The Gallery sits on a property gifted to the Sutherland Council by Ben and Hazel Broadhurst. After the property came into Council’s possession in 1995, the ‘Friends of Hazelhurst’ was established in order to support the realization of a Community Arts Centre and Regional Gallery. With the substantial commitment of the Sutherland Shire Council, and the added support of $1million from the Federal Government, building on the site commenced in 1998. The Gallery and Arts Centre opened its doors on January 22nd, 2000.

I decided to see the exhibition, but to give the event a bit of twist for me, I would ask my husband to wear his “Suave” casual suit coat that I bought him in 1976 (wide lapels and collar and pocket leather trims – very disco!). I would dress up in my two-piece outfit (pants and matching suit coat) from the House of Merivale & Mr. John (originally a Sydney fashion house from the 1950s to 1990s that also had outlets in Canberra and Melbourne).

These were the outfits that we wore to our “supercool” registry wedding, wearing our “bell bottoms” with pride and wantonly displaying a little prejudice against the more traditional formatted weddings of those times. Of course, those were the days before “Father of the Bride” which ushered in $20,000 affairs, and then later morphed into overseas French vineyard weddings that friends and family dreaded to be invited to, since they could barely afford the trip let alone the gift. But I digress!

So I threw my husband his “disco” suit coat and told him that we are doing a vintage booth photo shoot of an aging couple that have been together for almost forty years. As always he shrugs, does what he is told and fits into his casual suit coat with ease. His body has changed (no longer so trim, taut and terrific) but it appears that the size of his frame has not altered.

Ellak's 1970's jacket.

I secreted myself into another room and put on the Merivale suit coat. Hmm - not that bad! A little tight here and there and of course, the suit coat took on a more bulging appearance than what it did when I was only twenty-one. I saw a red wine stain mark on the bottom of the coat and memories came flooding back - which were far too personal for me to divulge!

I then tried on the matching pants. After thirty minutes of struggling, wiggling and trying to pour my body into those pants, I finally gave up when the zipper split from the garment. These pants have shrunk badly! Well, they have been conserved in a dark closet for thirty odd years and it is clear to me that although they have not been washed or dry cleaned in that time, they nevertheless have shrunk! Clearly I am in denial.

When I returned, my husband was ready to go and raised one eyebrow when he saw my Merivale suit coat, but without the matching pants. I looked at him and sighed: “Don’t ask.” He quickly departed to the car. Needless to say there was no vintage photo shoot for us that day.

Marie-Therese's 1970's Merivale jacket.

The exhibition “After Five” gave a glimpse of the Darnell Collection that was initially gifted to her goddaughter Charlotte Smith. The “first half” was gifted to Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania (USA) for their fashion archives. The “second half” was gifted to Charlotte and comprised a staggering 3500 items of clothing, from underwear to accessories to jewellery to cocktail to evening gowns etc. Today the Australian collection has grown to 8000 items through generous donations and selective purchases at vintage shops and textile auctions.

Doris Darnell was an American who lived in Chicago. She started her collection in 1937 (during the darkest days of the Depression) by buying a peach-coloured slipper satin dress in a shop - Bryn Maw - in Philadelphia. This purchase triggered a lifelong passion for buying and admiring elegant evening wear. Although a Quaker, this did not restrict her entry into fashion collection. When friends and philanthropists offered her their treasured dresses, hats or handbags, she would record the story behind their gift, which in her mindset was as important as the gift itself.

Her favourite fashion period was the second half of the 1950s. She was a mother with a young family during this time and so most of her entertaining was in her own home. This was the period when it was rigueur for women to own a range of evening wear, including cocktail dresses, dinner dresses and full-length ball gowns, each needing to be delineated by the mode of entertainment.

The Darnell Collection is Australia’s largest private collection of vintage clothing. The exhibition presented over 30 unique outfits from around the world including such designers as Christian Dior, Mary Quant, Oscar de le Renta, Bruce Oldfield, Adolpho, Emilio Pucci, Emanuel Ungaro, Christopher Essex and Franco Moschino among others. Accessories including hats, shoes, evening bags and jewellery were also featured including a rare 1920s Tiffany brooch. The exhibition explored the social history as to how and why evening wear had changed for women over the years.

I will not bore you with the minute details of the exhibition since it has long gone and moreover, I have already blogged about the Darnell Collection. Of course, you can go directly to the Collection itself if you want to read more about its contents.

What I did find disturbing was what was defined as “vintage” in the exhibition. Okay, I can understand that we would class as vintage anywhere from 1900 to 1960s. I was only in my early teens in the late 1960s. Perhaps as we are aging, the 1970s to the 1980s appears in hindsight as vintage. But how can you think that the cocktail dresses of the middle/late 1990s – 2000s is still vintage? Is our fashion world turning so rapidly that if a thirteen year-old girl of this decade does not recognize it, then it must be vintage? Are the outfits of the Goths no longer radical, but are now seen as belonging to the same dustbin of history that my Merivale suit apparently resides in (without an operating zipper)?

I was also amazed that many of the clothes that were in the exhibition were purchased at vintage shops (Vinnies?) and at textile auctions. I really do need to go to these hand-me-down shops more often. However, I did not know about textile auctions – where and when are they held?

When in doubt - “Google”! Suddenly I find one entry that interests me. Apparently, Sotheby's Fashion department auctions everything from 17th century doublets to fine French haute couture and Vivienne Westwood's Seditionaries’ as well as fine European and Oriental textiles, embroideries, samplers, patchworks, laces and shawls. Sotheby’s in England conducts two major fashion sales each year - Passion of Fashion and Fine Textiles - with additional smaller sales held in their South London warehouse as opportunities arise.

Suddenly vintage made at lot of sense to me again. It is an investment that all spouses need to get acquainted with!

1 comment:

Flora Fascinata said...

Oh how much did I love The House of Merivale!!! I was obsessed with their ad campaigns! Spent lots of time in front of the mirror in home-made taffeta frocks (with the three Rs - ruching, ruffles and roses). I love your jacket. You would have made a fabulous photo - you should have just improvised a bit - left a top button undone or something. I met Charlotte Smith resplendent in her 70s long polyester floral 'house dress' at her book launch of Dreaming of Dior'. She was utterly lovely. What a story that is. Quaker be darned - where there is a will there's a way.
Your articles are fantastic, thank you, again. x