Getting dressed for the day took on a new meaning as members of a fashion troupe quickly donned gowns, bodices and petticoats in a fast-moving fashion show for Ryman residents.
Corsets and bustles were show off at every twist and turn. There were multiple outfit changes for the Yvette Williams lounge event, as the fashion models made the most of an Otepoti Dunedin Heritage Festival event.
Historical costumer Lorraine Clark has been showing off Regency, Victorian and Edwardian garments throughout the South Island since 2005. She and Wilma Graham are two of the original members. Known as, Images of the Past, the group wear historically-accurate period garb.
Ryman Healthcare’s name was highlighted within the 2023 Heritage Festival booklet. The near hour-long presentation took residents on a journey into the past, but with new fabrics bringing the works of art to life.
At the village, one member of the group, Kura Carpenter, acted as a maid to help dress some of the ladies in front of the audience. They were able to witness definite shifts in fashion.
The clothing and accessories, from different eras, included Peter Pan collars, peignoirs, day caps, reticules (instead of handbags) and items that might feature in a Jane Austen adaptation. The Regency clothes feature slimline high waisted dresses and cropped bodices, with long, flowing skirts. Some dresses have two different bodices – one for day and one for evening wear, Lorraine added.
Moving through the ages, the Victorian era featured petticoats, and Edwardian women’s fashion included ‘straight’ items, with a natural fall, Lorraine said. A woman might wear an Edwardian blouse with a long, simple tailored skirt.
“Victorian is crinolines and bustles. Like I’m wearing a bustle (today). They’re good to drive in too, because you can just push the cushion up a wee bit and you’ve got a lumbar cushion for when you’re driving,” Lorraine said.
Frances Hodgkins resident Yvonne Fogo said fashion events within a Dunedin Heritage Week context were important for the city and continued to gain stature. “Lately you’ve heard more about it, it is (growing),” she said.
Ryman Sales Advisor Kate Morgan said the event at Yvette Williams was just one within those organised by the Southern Heritage Trust, and the Images of the Past group was a treasure for the city. “There’s some amazing seamstresses, and some (members) who probably have morphed from sewing ladies through to models.”
Lorraine said some of the historic clothing, they were modelling, suited the etiquette of the day. “In the Victorian times they would go and visit each other. You would go with your maid. The maid would knock on the door, her maid would come out, they’d have the cards, give her the cards, and she’d come back and say ‘madam’s not at home’ or ‘madam is at home’... There was no difference to us meeting for coffee today.”
The group, also including Helen Kay, worked hard on presenting close to what was worn in the day, even modifying old op shop finds, Lorraine said. “(Sometimes) the fabrics and trims, which used in those days, are now no longer available. Replica patterns are available... and some of the ladies follow the fashions as accurately using a combination of lacing, buttons and quilt for fastening, while others use modern zips because of the need to change quickly during parades.”
The ladies presented the dresses and other fashion items and had a lot of fun doing that in front of lively audiences. “Crowds are crowds, and they’re all different. You can play some, and you can’t play some.”
Lorraine says her late husband, Alex, built three large cupboards or wardrobes for the display items. She laughs that even with those she sometimes misplaces the items for the next show.
One of the very first presentations the group did was at the 100th or centenary celebrations of Dunedin Railway Station, Lorraine said. At that point she had two little grandchildren, who have subsequently grown up. The group has attended fashion events in Gore, Balclutha and for heritage festival events around the South Island.
They ask for donations after a show, and these proceeds go to charity. The group buy books vouchers to give to youngsters within the children’s ward of Dunedin Hospital.