Melbourne  Manchester: Day One

Victorian Jacket from House of Worth

Victorian Jacket from House of Worth

This afternoon we visited the Gallery of Costume located at Platt Hall, which is one of the largest costume collections in Britain. The collection showcases items from the 17th Century through to today, and is unique in that it includes a variety of clothing, rather than just high-end apparel that would have been worn by the upper classes.

 

After browsing through the amazing displays, we were incredibly lucky to go behind the scenes and see the volumes of clothing not on display to the general public. Here, we were able to see clothing and accessories from a range of eras, including early Victorian through to the 1950s. It was incredible to see the intricate embroidery, beading and construction details – much of which would have been completed by hand.

Hand embroidered fabric

Hand embroidered fabric

 

The fact that these garments were still in tact and near perfect after decades and even centuries is astounding, and the collection serves as an amazing historical resource. However, this legacy begs the question:

 

What legacy will modern society leave for future generations in terms of fashion and textiles? 

 

With fast fashion so poorly produced and trend cycles so incredibly fast, it seems unlikely that a lot of modern clothing will survive the annual or seasonal wardrobe cull, let alone the next hundred years. The sad reality is that the legacy we are leaving for future generations is nothing more than a series of terrible environmental impacts and a growing mountain of textile waste occupying landfills around the world.

 

1950s fruit print dress, complete with fruist-shaped raffia belt

1950s fruit print dress, complete with fruist-shaped raffia belt

In many ways we have all but lost the amazing skills required to create such amazing, beautiful details and clothing. But more concerning is people’s lack of emotional attachment to the items they wear, and thus an inherent inability to appreciate such craftsmanship. Wanting the look for less means that such luxuries have been sacrificed to make way for lower production costs and faster turn arounds. And while this may mean saving money in the short term, the costs to the environment and society’s skill base are high.

– Bec Shotton, RMIT

Written by Grant Emerson