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Published: 06 May 2023

By Andy Ross

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CTANZ symposium

This weekend, CTANZ (Costume and Textile Association of New Zealand) has beens holding its annual symposium in Oamaru in the South Island.

The symposium has been delayed due to Covid and it has been fantastic to have the opportunity to travel across the mountains and head South for a weekend with like-minded people.

CTANZ is 21 years old. This anniversary year the organisation has organised a full programme of talks, along with an exhibition of textile art, and a fashion show with a difference.

The town of Oamaru is known for its Victorian architecture, much of which has been saved by a heritage group that owns and operates old grain stores and factory buildings in the Victorian Precinct. As part of that heritage, the Victorian Wardrobe, the largest period costume hire in the world, and research organisation that has a significant array of womenswear, menswear and children’s clothing and accessories, has been a familiar part of the town’s history and the organisation held a fashion parade on Saturday morning. The parade showcased the changes in the shape of dresses and suits through the Victorian period, and the introduction of a uniquely Antipodean outfit: the swagman’s costume. This consisted of a long-sleeved shirt, neck scarf, longs tied at below the knee with string so that creepy crawlies could not climb up, and a long woollen overcoat; excellent protection against the bush in Australia and New Zealand. Apparently the swagman was fondly looked on as an iconic figure and this particular overcoat was the property of the wearer’s father so it must have a significant history.

Over the weekend there have been lots of thought-provoking talks on a huge variety of topics, including a presentation on badges of Aotearoa New Zealand, dresses for debutante balls, and the problems with dyeing of natural fibres. There have been talks by Maori weavers and New Zealand textile artists, plenty of discussion about each topic, and many opportunities to meet people. The whole event has taken place in the opera house in the centre of town, a beautifully restored  building that acts as a performance and conference venue. Its location has allowed for exploring and visiting galleries, museums and archives as well as the shops.

The keynote speech of the symposium was given by Patricia Te Arapo Wallace and was on the theme of Traditional Maori Textiles: threads that link the past and the present. It was a joy to listen to and really set the tone for the event.

Thank you to the organisers and volunteers for such an excellent three days. It has been a very useful and informative event to attend and we are going home with minds full and buzzing with plans and ideas for the future.