A dress like Alice’s | Creative Victoria

Alice Creswick loved picnics. The wilderness of Heidelberg, not far from his big old house in Hawthorn, and the brooding bush around Ferntree Gully were favorite places to open your parasol and have lunch with friends in the eucalyptus-scented summer air. . She later put on her thin silk shoes, her skirts dragging – inevitably tearing – in the dust and grass for a stroll by the Yarra River or in the sunny bush.

The National Trust of Australia (Victoria) (NTAV) knows all about Alice because even though she drifted in the bush on her picnics around 150 years ago, the organization has her dress. Her hail-speckled midnight silk dress with practical polished cotton lining, designed and sewn by Ms. Kate Eeles of Collins Street Melbourne. It is part of the permanent collection of the NTAV and, like each of the 5,000 garments and accessories that the trust has carefully collected through donations and research, it resonates with the life of its original owner.

“All of our clothes have stories,” says Dr Annette Shiell, Executive Director of Collections and Cultural Projects at NTAV, “They are worn by real people and when handled in preserved conditions we can go back and really take a look at their construction and the way they’ve been mended and mended and I can tell you we’re going down some amazing bunnyholes. And this (Alice’s dress) was a particularly lovely project and so exciting because they found burrs and seeds still in the hem that could be studied and tracked the type of vegetation that was in the area at the time. “

According to Sheill, the vast collection of NTAV heritage clothing, shoes, umbrellas, sewing patterns and accessories resonates with wonderful stories and information, an invaluable late-night resource for a proper home in which she can be stored under controlled conditions.

“Right now everything is stored in what we call microclimates: archive boxes in archive fabrics at (heritage property) Labassa (Manor) which is a very solid building and visually stunning, but not ideal” , she said, “We are working with various groups and we have set up a task force; we want to find a new home.”

The collection, like the NTAV, is self-funded and dates back to 1720. By Sheill’s calculations, its strongest and most fascinating vein of family and social history runs through the Gold Rush and the Mid-Land Boom to late 1800s, but it’s packed with other fading-worthy highlights, including a collection of haute couture embroidery from the 1950s and 1960s and valuable examples of wedding fashions, cosmetics, and fashion advertisements.

“It’s the story of Melbourne and Victoria’s fashion and social history through clothing,” she says. have the chance to look closely – in preserved conditions – and question it for all of these wonderful stories. “

The collection is only accessible by rare appointment because it is the subject of two studies to determine its future. “We hired a specialist consultant to do a meaningful assessment to find out what the key garments are and our strengths, and how we differentiate ourselves from other collections,” says Sheill. “And a preventive needs assessment – what needs to be done to ensure that the collection can be stored in the best possible conditions to maintain its security and integrity.”

Despite the collection’s temporary downtime, there has been a year of exciting initiatives before and between closings. “Costume Lab” was a collaboration with curators from the University of Melbourne’s Grimwade Center who worked on delicate treasures in Labassa as visitors watched. “So many people have asked us, ‘Please, when can you start over? Sheill laughed.

And then there was “Vault”. The exotic vintage fashion retail outlet has opened in Melbourne’s historic Block Arcade to sell the many high-end and designer gifts that cannot, after a curatorial assessment, be absorbed into the permanent collection of costumes.

“Vault is amazing because these premium pieces that are so generously donated by people who often still have an emotional attachment to them, are reused, give another life with someone who will cherish them,” Shiell says with awe, “And all the funds go right back into the conservation of the costume collection.”

An arrangement surely as elegant and meaningful as Alice Creswick’s dress.

Donate or volunteer at NTAV.

or visit Vault, Block Arcade, 282 Collins Street, Melbourne (closed Mondays)

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