Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Night Life

A while ago now I took a long weekend and ventured down to Winchelsea to Barwon Park Mansion to view the National Trust's Night Life exhibition of formal wear from the 1920s and 1930s. It was certainly well worth the trip and a good excuse for a short break.

The mansion was built by Thomas Austin in 1867 when he learned he was to host the Prince of Wales during the next Royal visit. He was too embarrassed to entertain royalty at his modest homestead, so built the mansion. He died six months after it was completed. Austin is also credited, or rather blamed, for introducing the rabbit to Australia so they had something to hunt besides kangaroos.

Barwon Park Mansion
It provided a fitting setting for the National Trust exhibition. The lighting was necessarily dim to conserve the garments, so please excuse the lack of light in the photos.

The 1920s garments were divine. There were, of course, the elaborately beaded flapper dresses but in some ways I found the other garments more interesting, probably because I've seen so many photos of beaded dresses. This dress is one of my favourites - earlier than 1920s, about 1919 I think. I have discovered a passion for tassels.

Beaded Cocoon Coat

This dress of pearl and silver beads is so heavy that the weight of the beads has torn the fine netting to which they are stitched. These heavily beaded garments are displayed flat in cases to minimise stress to the already stressed pieces. It must have been a challenge to dance the Charleston in some of these dresses. This garment is described as an evening gown but wouldn't it have made a lovely wedding dress!

My other favourite piece in the exhibition is this Assuit shawl. In the wake of Howard Carter's discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922 everything Egyptian was the rage. This fabric, named after the place in Egypt where it was made, combines net fabric with metal strips in an ornate design.

Assuit Shawl

The 1930s moved away from beading and ornamentation. Dresses were longer, and cut on the cross of the fabric (or bias) to cling to the body's curves. There were several beautiful silk florals on display.

 One of the problems I had at the exhibition was not touching the fabrics. These fabrics are so foreign to what we are familiar with these days. When a fabric is described as glazed silk I want to touch it, but I did manage to refrain.

This interesting 1940s cotton lace dress was the youngest dress in the exhibition.

There were many other beautiful and interesting pieces that I just couldn't photograph properly in the dark, such as a fabulous piano shawl, and a cape with an amazing Art Deco lining.

An interesting section of home made garments made a detour, and visitors could  practise doing tambour embroidery in a hoop if the volunteers were there to instruct.

One day I hope to go back just to look at the mansion as much of it could not be seen due to the special exhibition. I was most fascinated by the servants' areas.

And by the nursery.

The doll's house furniture was fascinating, made with such care in amazing detail. I was reminded of Beatrix Potter's book "The Tale of Two Bad Mice".

Little wood burning stove. I put my bag there for perspective.
Tiny little ironing board and spinning wheel.
The Night Life exhibition dates  were extended but it was moved to Rippon Lea mansion in Elsternwick, Melbourne, where it is a bit more accessible to most visitors. It finishes on July 30, so be quick. There are also a series of spin off events, including a fashion parade and ball.

Night Life at Rippon Lea

No comments:

Post a Comment