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Woman's Dress, Early 1900s

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Copyright Reproduced courtesy of the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa Purchased from A Hannah, 1915
Creator Unidentified
Identifiers Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa number FE001055/2 TLF resource R2867
Source Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

This image shows a European-style long dress, probably made in Tuvalu in the early 1900s. It is made from yellow-and-red pandanus matting and is largely machine sewn. Three-quarter-length sleeves end in a fringe of what appears to be hibiscus fibre. The fringe at the bottom of the dress consists of broad vertical strips - two or three red, followed by a yellow - and is stitched in white thread. The dress measures 145 cm x 76 cm.

Educational value:
  • This asset is an example of an item of clothing whose origin has been attributed on the basis of the material used in its construction - the distinctive yellow-and-red dyed pandanus (fibre from leaves of the pandanus tree) is typically used in weaving from Tuvalu.
  • It displays an interesting mix of Pacific materials and European styling - 19th-century missionaries in the Pacific introduced new concepts of modesty and previously unknown types of clothing (missionary teachings stressed the importance of covering the body in a modest and proper manner).
  • It is an example of a long, warm dress, quite unsuitable for the hot climate but often worn at the time - European dress became a status symbol, often identifying the wearer as a member of a group such as a church.
  • It shows the craftsmanship of garment-makers of the time - the dress has a deep yoke made of fairly thick strips of pandanus, with a round neck and centred back opening; the rest of the dress is made from a much finer, predominately red mat with a fine yellow diamond pattern, and the body is pleated from the yoke, with a flounce and a fringe at the base.

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