Collating fashion history

LOCAL fashion from the past is being carefully chosen for an upcoming pageant of fashion to be held in May. The extensive collection is housed at the Wingham Museum of the Manning Valley Historical Society. Local fashion identities Lyn Catt and Jo Meldrum have brought their extensive experience in the fashion industry to the museum and are joining with the MVHS volunteers to make the selection.

It's a difficult task and the women are aware they are collating history. They are also respectful of the emotional attachment that families hold for items they have donated to the museum. "We know of some people who will be travelling up from Newcastle to see the clothing donated by their families," said Lyn.

Most of the clothing housed at the museum has a strong local connection such as a grey linen day dress from 1901. The dress is thought to be Mrs Frances Hook's mother's clothes, Frances Hooke herself a Summerville a family with strong ties to the area.

The historical collection of garments has been collected for 'A Glimpse into the Past' to celebrate 100 years of fashion. Items that have been carefully selected will be on display in the Wingham Services Club auditorium on Saturday May 24. Tickets cost $20 and are available from the Manning Valley Historical Society or at the Wingham Services Club. Afternoon tea will also be served.

Women of the Manning Valley in the late 1800s and early 1900s most likely owned fewer garments than women of today. But the often simple and delicate items are a testament to a time when quality materials and careful stitching ensured longevity of the piece.

As Manning Valley Historical Society president Barbara Walters and her team of helpers collate garments for the upcoming fashion pageant they have been reflecting on the difficulty local women would have faced 100 years ago. “Many would have been remembering their homelands and what they left behind,” said Barbara. “The sewing machine would have been important and there would have been a strong reliance on catalogues for fashion inspiration.”

Material would have been ordered from such places as Cochrane's Emporium which opened in Wingham in 1884. Cochrane employed salesmen who circulated around the district with four carts so women on rural properties may have been able to order their supplies that way. There would have been a heavy reliance on ships to bring fabrics and clothing into the district. Unfortunately shipping disasters may very well have been responsible for entire wardrobes being destroyed which would have been a huge loss to people.

Old photos housed at the museum reveal well-dressed ladies in Wingham's past. The type and quantity of clothing owned would have depended on the prosperity of the family. It was common for many women to only own one good dress. “This dress would have been worn for special occasions and to church,” said Barbara. Afternoon tea was a popular time to dress in a fine dress and accessories.

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