Last week we kicked off a new exhibition initiative at the Whanganui Regional Museum.
Titled Outfit of the Month, we plan to display and highlight great outfits from our Textile Collection on a monthly basis.
This is a good way to make objects in this less frequently seen collection much more visible.
Either senior curator Libby Sharpe or collection manager Trish Nugent-Lyne will give a quick lunchtime talk about the featured costume every Friday for a month. We'll see you at 12.15pm by Outfit of the Month. Remember, entry to the museum is free.
In March-April, we feature a truly glamorous outfit, worn by New Zealand poet Eileen Duggan in 1937 when she was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for contributions to literature in New Zealand in the New Year Honours.
Eileen Duggan published five volumes of poetry between 1922 and 1951. Her reputation and influence as a specifically New Zealand poet and writer were international. Duggan was made an honorary fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (London) in 1943.
She was the most well-known New Zealand poet in the 1930s-1940s, both at home and overseas.
The evening dress is made of a fine rich gold fabric with a silver lurex stripe. It has a plain bodice and a full skirt with a centre front waist to hem lace panel in three tiers over cream tulle net.
The jacket is made of fine corded velvet and lined with mustard-coloured silk taffeta. The colours and cut signal the fashion and style of the 1930s.
This is a posh outfit, made for a special occasion. It is skillfully cut and sewn and was probably made by a home dressmaker.
There are no maker's labels. And it looks elegant. Even in the old black and white photograph taken in the 1930s that accompanies this article, it has style.
One of its most alluring features is the bold richness of its colour. Despite worldwide Depression, shortages and personal ill health, Eileen Duggan dressed up for her OBE ceremony.
Women, if they could find the resources, made huge efforts to dress well, with matching shoes and handbag and hat.
Eileen Duggan was born and brought up by the banks of the Wairau River in Marlborough.
One of her most loved poems is The tides run up the Wairau, verse evocative of her much-loved childhood haunts and demonstrative of her increasing regard for the New Zealand voice of poetry.
"The tides run up the Wairau,
"That fights against their flow, My heart and it together Are running salt and snow."
This is a poem about turbulent physical landscapes. It employs those physical realities as metaphors for the poet's turbulent feelings about love.
Grace Burgess, a long-time and close friend of Eileen Duggan, donated this outfit to the Whanganui Regional Museum in 1984.
Burgess wrote and published a short memoir of Duggan's life titled, A gentle poet: a portrait of Eileen Duggan OBE.
• Libby Sharpe is Senior Curator at Whanganui Regional Museum.