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Last weeks Rate the Dress was all frothy ballgown, so this week I’m going all serious and businesslike, with a 1910s suit. Of course, while it is a suit, it’s also Edwardian, so there is detail within the detail of the detail of the suit!

Last week: an 1830s evening gown in white with green trims

I honestly thought there would be more comments on last week’s Rate the Dress, because it was such an interesting dress! But perhaps people were having busy weeks. Or perhaps it was just too subtle and not obviously interesting enough…

In any case, some of you thought it absolutely delightful and charming, but alas, some of you thought it drooped, was overly be-bow-ed, and suffered from terminal puffed sleeve-ness.

The Total: 7.3 out of 10

For the record, I loved it. It was pretty much my dream 1830s evening gown (except for maybe not that bow).

This week: 

This ca. 1912 suit combines practicality with a dash of flair.

Wool suit with braided trim, ca 1912, Helen Larson Historic Costume Collection, Sold by Whitaker Auctions

The wool broadcloth would keep the wearer warm in a range of weather, and the dark colours would resist soiling and wear on grimy city streets, but the broad silk satin collar and elaborate trimmings speak to a sensibility as focused on aesthetic as on function.

Wool suit with braided trim, ca 1912, Helen Larson Historic Costume Collection, Sold by Whitaker Auctions

The suit jacket features a wide, square collar in satin and velvet, with braid, button and embroidery trim, a braided belt effect at a fashionably high waist, velvet cuffs, and elaborate braid and button trim across the back.

The jacket is worn over an A-line skirt, with faux wrap effect.

Wool suit with braided trim, ca 1912, Helen Larson Historic Costume Collection, Sold by Whitaker Auctions

Typically of high end fashion of the era, every element of the design that could be embellished with additional details is, right down to the belt buttons, with dainty floral borders.

Wool suit with braided trim, ca 1912, Helen Larson Historic Costume Collection, Sold by Whitaker Auctions

What do you think? Is this ensemble suited for purpose, while suiting your sense of style?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

A reminder about rating – feel free to be critical if you don’t like a thing, but make sure that your comments aren’t actually insulting to those who do like a garment.  Phrase criticism as your opinion, rather than a flat fact. Our different tastes are what make Rate the Dress so interesting.  It’s no fun when a comment implies that anyone who doesn’t agree with it, or who would wear a garment, is totally lacking in taste. 

(as usual, nothing more complicated than a .5.  I also hugely appreciate it if you only do one rating, and set it on a line at the very end of your comment, so I can find it!  And 0 is not on a scale of 1 to 10.  Thanks in advance!)

The post Rate the Dress: Suited to the Teens appeared first on The Dreamstress.

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Oh no! It appears there was a glitch in Shopify this morning, and some of you who were trying to take advantage of the Scroop Patterns sale mistakenly got a message that the sale code had expired. 

This is wrong!

The sale is definitely still on for another 9 hours! I’ve re-checked and re-set everything, so it’s all running smoothly again. So…

Get 20% off all digital patterns at scrooppatterns.com until midnight tonight, NZ time

(NZ time – so that’s now to the 17th of May for most of the rest of the world).

Use the code:

MumsTheWord

At checkout to get your discount!

The post Ooops! Yes, the Scroop Patterns sale is still on! appeared first on The Dreamstress.

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When I started teaching costume construction at Toi Whakaari: the New Zealand Drama School last year, I decided I should do some of the projects that the costuming students do as part of their coursework, so I knew how the garments were taught and constructed in the course. It was also a good way to familiarise myself with ‘my’ industrial machine.

Every costume shop has its own ‘house rules’, and, while there are general method groupings, there are literally an infinite number of ways to make any specific costume item.

Every year the first year costumers build a theatrical version of a historical style from the foundations out: boned undergarment, petticoat and skirt supports, dress, accessories, hat. Last year the theme was 1780s, this year the students are doing 1570s Elizabethan.

I chose to make the 1760s stays the students make some years, as they have elements common to a lot of the different eras of boned bodices.

Since we’re teaching costuming for stage & film, not historical costuming, they are machine sewn and use modern materials.

And…it still took me a year to finish them.

Basically I just got stuck getting the fit right, and faffed about with that for 11 months…

Pictured: Fitssues.

But they are (finally) done!

They are made from two layers of cotton duck (midweight twill weave), with a decorative layer of vintage embroidered cotton (from my grandmother) at centre front.

They are boned with German plastic whalebone.

All the boning channels and seam stitching were done on an industrial machine.

They have metal grommets, and use X cross lacing, instead of spiral lacing (I’m not going to lie, this part really stresses me!).

They are bound with cotton twill tape.

While the body of the stays were machine sewn, I did the binding by hand, because I enjoy hand sewing, the students do theirs by hand, and I did much of the binding while on the road and away from sewing machines at the annual Toi Whakaari trip to Manutuke Marae.

I also did reinforced the top of each tab with hand-sewing, rather than by machine.

The binding only took me a couple of days of concerted sewing. And then they were finally done!

I’ve got two more pairs of 18th century stays on my sewing schedule for this year: one totally handsewn and historically accurate, and one a combination of hand and machine sewing. And I’m DETERMINED that neither will take me more than two weeks!

None of this ‘year’ nonsense…

The post Stay with me (for over a year, because that’s how long these 1760’s stays took to finish) appeared first on The Dreamstress.

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So many historical costumers are sewing 1830s, and I want to be sewing 1830s, but I can’t start any new projects until my already started ones are finished, so I’m consoling myself by finding interesting Romantic-era fashions – like this week’s Rate the Dress

Last week: an 1890s dress in plum and leaf print chiné

What an interesting reaction to last week’s Rate the Dress! Ratings ranging from 10-2, and everything in between (except 7). It was described as being suitable for a “surreal pseudovictorianish comical dystopia” or perfect for “a posh British lady going to Australia for the first time.” (which is interesting, because it rather reminds me of the better costumes in the generally terribly costumed 2018 ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ TV series).

And “unfortunate”…

The Total: 7 out of 10

It finally gets that 7!

This week: An 1830s evening gown

This 1830s evening gown comes in classical white, with sleeves that Anne would envy (albeit a half century early), a flourish of embroidered greenery around the hem, a perky bow in the centre of the bodice, and layers of sheer at sleeve and hem.

Evening dress, 1830s, From the Turun museokeskus, Finland Evening dress, 1830s From the Turun museokeskus, Finland
Evening dress, 1830s From the Turun museokeskus, Finland

The closer you get to the dress, the more interesting the details are: the flowers/grass heads are three dimensional, and even appear to have floating stamen things (perhaps made from feathers?).

On some sections of the skirt are also strings of faux pearls running between the feathering lines framing the join of the sheer hem overlay. On other sections they are missing, most likely lost with time.

Evening dress, 1830s From the Turun museokeskus, Finland Evening dress, 1830s From the Turun museokeskus, Finland Evening dress, 1830s From the Turun museokeskus, Finland Evening dress, 1830s From the Turun museokeskus, Finland

What do you think of this simple but complicated frock?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

A reminder about rating – feel free to be critical if you don’t like a thing, but make sure that your comments aren’t actually insulting to those who do like a garment.  Phrase criticism as your opinion, rather than a flat fact. Our different tastes are what make Rate the Dress so interesting.  It’s no fun when a comment implies that anyone who doesn’t agree with it, or who would wear a garment, is totally lacking in taste. 

(as usual, nothing more complicated than a .5.  I also hugely appreciate it if you only do one rating, and set it on a line at the very end of your comment, so I can find it!  And 0 is not on a scale of 1 to 10.  Thanks in advance!)


The post Rate the Dress: 1830s puffs on sleeves & skirt appeared first on The Dreamstress.

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I usually do an anniversary sale the first week of April, to celebrate another year of Scroop Patterns, and Felicity’s birthday. This year I was away for work that week, and couldn’t run the sale.

I’ve been planning to find a reason to run a sale, and I just realised the best reason of all: Mother’s Day.

My mother is pretty much my favourite person in the world! She definitely deserves a celebration! And my mother-in-law is equally deserving and wonderful.

So, this is in celebration of my mother. It’s in celebration of all the women who have helped to nurture and support me: mothers, friends, aunts, grandmothers, and just generally lovely human beings. It’s in celebration of all the women out there who nurture and support.

Get 20% off all digital patterns at scrooppatterns.com from midnight 11 May to midnight 18 May

(NZ time – so that’s now to the 17th of May for most of the rest of the world).

Use the code:

MumsTheWord

At checkout to get your discount!

The post Scroop Patterns – Mother’s Day Sale! appeared first on The Dreamstress.

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Testers are such an important part of the indie pattern design process. They help ensure that a pattern fits just right on a wide range of bodies and makes sense to the average sewist across the world. Good testers help me to polish off any last bits of roughness from a pattern, asking all the questions I might have missed answering.

The testers for the Mahina Cardigan were just wonderful. You can tell how amazing they are by how many of them made multiple cardigans, just because they enjoyed sewing them and wearing them so much!

Here are the tester makes!

Gillian of Crafting a Rainbow@craftingarainbow

Gillian made the Mahina View C out of a delicious purple knit that looks incredibly soft even in the photos.

It shows off the drape of the cardigan beautifully! Read her blog post for a full review of the pattern.

Kerstin of Hertzwerk-Freiburg

Kerstin’s Mahina is a wonderful example of what the cardigan looks like in a very light, sheer knit. And she sent me photos with 13 different ways to wear the Mahina. Versatility!

I’ve restrained from showing you all of them (but go check out her hilarious blog post to see them for yourself!), so here are my two favourites. A classic View C Mahina:

And a rectangular hack of the pattern. The pattern includes suggestions for playing with the shape, and the basic construction techniques, and Kerstin decided to have fun with the ideas. I love it!

Nina of Smash the Stash @ninavirgo

Nina has been the most consistent campaigner for me to release the Mahina Cardigan pattern. She’s loved it ever since she helped me photograph my geeky version.

She particularly loved the fabric I used for my original cardigan, and I had quite a bit of it left in my stash, so was delighted to be able to give her a cardigan length to test with.

(Nina is my editing tester, who tests every single one of my patterns for stylistic consistency, so giving her fabric is a thank you for her amazing help – not a bribe for a good review!)

Tales of the Sewing City

The Mahina can look so different depending on the fabric used, and how you wear and style it. I LOVE how this ponte de roma falls in View B, especially pinned at the neck like this!

Do pop over to her blog to read her lovely review of the pattern.

(also THOSE SHOES!!!!!! Did you see the shoes!!!!)

Teresa of Books ‘n’ Threads @books.n.threads

I am absolutely in love with the fabric that Teresa chose for her View C Mahina. That lattice pattern really shows off the drape and cut of the cardigan, and it works beautifully with the wide binding.

The Sewing Goatherd @thesewinggoatherd

I like to have a mix of experienced testers, and people who are new to testing, and testers I’ve worked with before, and testers I’ve never worked with, for every pattern. It ensures that I get a range of viewpoints and perspectives on the pattern, and that some of those viewpoints are familiar with my usual fit and instructions, and can point out if I’m doing something really differently to what I usually do.

Alyssa is one of the testers I’ve worked with a lot, because she’s great at testing – really thoughtful, and notices all sorts of things I could improve.

And also, she takes photos with baby goats! Do check out her blog post for this one – it’s all spring blossoms and baby animals, and looks like a fairy tale!

Anna of Andropial

 When Anna applied to be a tester I loved her bright IG account, and her fun poses. She did not disappoint with her Mahina photos!

She made View A in blue-purple, and then maroon, and I think they both look amazing with that red top!

Kristina of Plum Kitchen @plumkitchen

Kristina made her Mahina in a lighter weight merino knit: perfect for autumn in New Zealand.

@MrsNickiPea

Pink was a bit of a theme with the testers (and one of the pattern samples is pink!), but Nicola is definitely winning the bright contest with this amazing hot pink and black reversible fabric.

Sewing with Music in Mind

Sarah enjoyed making her test Mahina so much that she made one in dark pink:

And one in light pink:

And one in blue, but you’ll have to go to her blog to see that one!

A huge thank you to everyone who tested! I really enjoyed working with you, and am very grateful for your time and feedback. 

Get your pattern here! 

The post The Mahina Cardigan: Tester Makes! appeared first on The Dreamstress.

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Last week’s Rate the Dress was extremely revealing, and rather incomplete. This week I’ve got in the opposite direction, with a very covered up 1890s dress, that even comes with its original matching hat.

Last week: a ca. 1908 evening dress covered in metallic embroidery & beading

The vast majority of you adored last weeks dress, and appreciated the way it melded historical references (medieval sideless surcoats & neoclassicism) with an extremely modern feel that wouldn’t be out of place on today’s red carpets.

You correctly noted that the dress was missing a very important feature: an underdress which filled in the neckline, and the sheer gates-of-hell-esque side mesh.

And then, a few of you thought it was terribly tacky…

The Total: 9.2 out of 10

(I’m mildly amused that this weeks rating is 8.4 – both numbers that always look like they are pregnant to me!)

This week: an 1890s dress in plum and leaf print chiné

Today’s pick is a classic 1890s day dress, though the choice and combination of fabric make it rather striking and unusual.

Two-piece day ensemble, 1894-1895, silk taffeta, Gift of the Manlove Family, FIDM 2006.870.19AB

The sleeves and bodice front and back are made from a chiné silk with a leaf pattern in shades of green on a dark plum.

Two-piece day ensemble, 1894-1895, silk taffeta, Gift of the Manlove Family, FIDM 2006.870.19AB

The chiné silk has been perfectly matched to a plain plum silk taffeta for the skirt, bodice sides, and cuffs.

Two-piece day ensemble, 1894-1895, silk taffeta, Gift of the Manlove Family, FIDM 2006.870.19AB

The skirt and bodice are separate pieces, the join hidden by the leaf print sash, and the bodice closing beneath the puffed silk at centre front.

Two-piece day ensemble, 1894-1895, silk taffeta, Gift of the Manlove Family, FIDM 2006.870.19AB

Not only is the ensemble perfectly matched but it also comes with a coordinating hat: a little percher designed to sit tipped over the front of the face, with a wired flourish of the chiné silk.

Hat, 1894-1895, Gift of the Manlove Family FIDM 2006.870.19C Hat, 1894-1895, Gift of the Manlove Family FIDM 2006.870.19C

The hat is unexpectedly bright: a flourish of vivid yellow and orange to contrast the muted purples and greens of the dress.

Two-piece day ensemble, 1894-1895, silk taffeta, Gift of the Manlove Family, FIDM 2006.870.19AB

What do you think of the ensemble? The dress, in its muted greens and purples, with its jaunty topper, typically 1890s in shape with a rather quirky twist to the design. Do you enjoy the combination, find it whimsical? Or is it just a terrible mis-match?

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

A reminder about rating – feel free to be critical if you don’t like a thing, but make sure that your comments aren’t actually insulting to those who do like a garment.  Phrase criticism as your opinion, rather than a flat fact. Our different tastes are what make Rate the Dress so interesting.  It’s no fun when a comment implies that anyone who doesn’t agree with it, or who would wear a garment, is totally lacking in taste. 

(as usual, nothing more complicated than a .5.  I also hugely appreciate it if you only do one rating, and set it on a line at the very end of your comment, so I can find it!  And 0 is not on a scale of 1 to 10.  Thanks in advance!)

The post Rate the Dress: 1890s foliage appeared first on The Dreamstress.

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The Dreamstress Blog by The Dreamstress - 2w ago


Meet the newest Scroop Pattern: the Mahina Cardigan! 

A pattern based on my circular cardigan has been the most requested addition to the Scroop Pattern range, and here it is, just in time for May the Fourth!

View C with unfinished heavy wool knit, with clean edges

Mahina means moon in Hawaiian, and Mahina Bay is a little cove along the coast of the Wellington Harbour, heading out to Eastbourne. The phases of the moon, the curve of a small bay, and the ripples of waves reaching shore inspired the shape of the cardigan, and all the different ways it can be worn and styled.

View A in boiled wool knit with bound edges

The Mahina Cardigan combines simple geometric shapes, a unique customizable fit system, and thoughtful shaping to create a versatile draping cardigan that can be elegant enough to wear as a wrap to a wedding, or casual enough for weekend errands.

Choose from four base shapes (View A Small Circle, View B Medium Circle, Veiw C Large Circle, and View D Oval), and match them to sleeve patterns based on your bicep measurements, and shaping darts customised to your shoulder width for a fit that is based on you, rather than an arbitrary industry standard.  

View D in lacey cotton knit, with lace edge finishes

With the choice of cuff bands or hemmed sleeves, and four edge finish options (raw, bound, faced or lace-edged) there are almost limitless fit and finish options.  

View B in cotton boucle knit, with bias faced edging

By popular demand, I extended the size range for the cardigan, so it now fits:

Anyone with Biceps between 10 “- 18.5”  or 26cm – 48.5cm

And Shoulders between 12.5″ – 19.5″  or 32 – 49.5cm

Views D & A Get your Mahina Cardigan Pattern Here View C

The post Meet the Mahina Cardigan! appeared first on The Dreamstress.

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Last week’s Rate the Dress was so dark and heavy that I really wanted a light coloured, light feeling frock to balance it out. I couldn’t find something that was as light and frothy as I’d hoped – but this beaded and be-spangled ca. 1908 evening gown is certainly a contrast to last week.

Last week: a very short-waisted ca. 1855 afternoon dress

No consensus on whether the dress might have been a maternity gown, but lots of discussion of the non-mirrored front (as expected – not a point winning feature). The general feeling was the fabric was so lovely, and the dress was overall rather elegant.

The Total: 8.4

(I’m mildly amused that this weeks rating is 8.4 – both numbers that always look like they are pregnant to me!)

This week: a ca. 1908 evening dress covered in metallic embroidery & beading

Augusta Auctions describes this strikingly beaded frock, with its streamlined silhouette, as a ball gown. With that elaborate train, it’s not exactly practical for dancing, but it definitely would have been worn to a very formal evening event.

Gold beaded ball gown, c. 1908, Lot- 307 Nov 13, 2013 – NYC, embroidery & beading w: ribbon, bronze thread, gold beads, silver bugle beads, rhinestones, pearls & silk ribbon, Augusta Auctions

The gown is an excellent illustration of the rather body-conscious silhouette of the last few years of the first decade of the 20th century.

Gold beaded ball gown, c. 1908, Lot- 307 Nov 13, 2013 – NYC, embroidery & beading w: ribbon, bronze thread, gold beads, silver bugle beads, rhinestones, pearls & silk ribbon, Augusta Auctions

The elaborate beading and embroidery almost anticipate the colour blocking and pattern shaping of early 2010s body con dresses – a la the Stella McCartney ‘Octavia’ number Kate Winslet wore to the 2011 Venice Film festival.

Gold beaded ball gown, c. 1908, Lot- 307 Nov 13, 2013 – NYC, embroidery & beading w: ribbon, bronze thread, gold beads, silver bugle beads, rhinestones, pearls & silk ribbon, Augusta Auctions

In addition to anticipating trends from a century later, this dress also looks back a century, with a clear neoclassical influence in its shape and decorations.

Gold beaded ball gown, c. 1908, Lot- 307 Nov 13, 2013 – NYC, embroidery & beading w: ribbon, bronze thread, gold beads, silver bugle beads, rhinestones, pearls & silk ribbon, Augusta Auctions

So how is this dress, and its combination of historicism and avant-garde-ness, sitting with you?

It would definitely have been worn with a more fitting under-dress, but I think we can still see the gist of what this frock was, and would have looked like on a person.

Rate the Dress on a Scale of 1 to 10

A reminder about rating – feel free to be critical if you don’t like a thing, but make sure that your comments aren’t actually insulting to those who do like a garment.  Phrase criticism as your opinion, rather than a flat fact. Our different tastes are what make Rate the Dress so interesting.  It’s no fun when a comment implies that anyone who doesn’t agree with it, or who would wear a garment, is totally lacking in taste. 

(as usual, nothing more complicated than a .5.  I also hugely appreciate it if you only do one rating, and set it on a line at the very end of your comment, so I can find it!  And 0 is not on a scale of 1 to 10.  Thanks in advance!)

The post Rate the Dress: All that Glitters, 1908 appeared first on The Dreamstress.

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A few weeks ago I was short of blogging ideas, and asked on FB for suggestions of what people would like me to post about. I got a ton of amazing ideas – some practical, and some of which are going to take a bit more work to blog about.*

I’m working my way through the list, but I realised I had some older blogging suggestions too. When I posted about my Regency bonnet, Natalie asked if I would write more about the park where we had the picnic and took the pictures.

What a great idea! And it dovetails nicely with another blog post idea I had, writing about a Wellington location I love and have photographed at, and I’ve only just realised is named in honour of someone pretty, well, dodgy.** So now I have a series started: Wellington places named after seriously problematic white dudes.***

The Sir Truby King House & Gardens

We picnicked and photographed our bonnets at the Sir Truby King House and Gardens.

The gardens were the home of Sir Truby King, the founder of the Plunket Society (more on both of those later) and his wife, Isabella King.† The house, designed by architect William Grey Young, was built in 1923 (incidentally, the same year our house was built, though King’s house is fairly old-fashioned in look, and ours was a cutting-edge bungalow featuring all the latest innovations).

The house and gardens sit high on a hill, overlooking the isthmus of Kilbirnie and Miramar Peninsula on one side, and the suburb of Newtown on the other. They back onto the Wellington reserve, with hiking and bike trails.

When Lady Isabella was alive, the house and gardens were a fairly standard upper middle class abode and grounds (other than that they were flanked by a baby foods factory and a hospital – both related to the couples work).

After Bella’s death King became increasingly erratic and obsessed with a number of strange things, including brickworks. He commissioned an elaborate series of walls, stairs and arches around the property.

Some of the brickworks, including the fabulous moon-gate, have been fenced off from the public in the last few years because they are an earthquake hazard, but plenty of picturesque spots remain accessible.

After King died (and was the first private citizen to have a State funeral in NZ) his and Isabella’s mausoleum became the centrepiece of the gardens.

I tend to stay off the actual mausoleum for photos, but you can see it in the background of a few of my images.

We’ve done a LOT of photoshoots at the Gardens. They are an absolutely beautiful location, and are surprisingly unknown, so we can often guarantee that we’ll be the only ones there – which is quite good when you have a not-comfortable-with-being-conspicuous model (me) and a hates-to-be-weird-in-public photographer (Mr D).

I took my first set of pictures in the gardens back in 2013, for the Bad Plaid Celebration Dress at the end of the very first Historical Sew Monthly

Since then the gardens have stood in for the ‘prettyish little wilderness’ of Pride & Prejudice when Theresa and I wore Regency:

And the Goblin King’s Castle when I did a Jareth cosplay:

They have been a backdrop for my frou frou francaise:

And my 1360s medieval gown:

Sir Truby King’s and Lady Isabelle’s surprisingly modest house made a cute setting for my 1915 Waiting for Bluebells dress:

And the surrounding woods were suitably magical for the 1970s Fairytale dress:

And suitably Endorian (or something) to be a Jedi knight.

And the gardens have been the setting for some Scroop Patterns shoots, from the Historical Fantail:

To my recent re-do of the Henrietta Maria dress & top photos:

And the new, improved Fantail Skirt!

And they are generally a wonderful place, and the source of a lot of joy for me.

But Sir Truby King? Well, some of his ideas were not OK.

Sir Truby King – Problematic.

Sir Truby King was a health reformer, most famous for founding the NZ Plunket Society (named for Lady Plunket, wife of the Governor General in 1907). The Society’s goal was to ‘Help the Mothers and Save the Babies’, and was aimed at improving hygiene, health, and child-rearing practices. Which sounds lovely.

But…

Sir Truby King was also a HUGE proponent of eugenics, had some terrible ideas about women’s ability to be both mothers and educated, and was a massive racist. And these ideas were heavily, heavily reflected in the early Plunket Society policies.

Early Plunket Society writings include phrases like “The Race marches forward on the feet of Little Children” (and yeah, that totally, 100% means the white, European race).

Additionally, despite being friends with some of New Zealand’s early female doctors, King firmly believed that education was detrimental to women’s ability to be effective mothers. He lectured that women who aimed for advanced education or chose careers had ruined their ability to be good mothers, and were betraying their race and their ultimate role. He believed “the body was a closed system with a limited amount of energy. The education of girls, in anything other than domestic skills, used up their energy and could make them unable to breed or breastfeed”.††

And even worse, because King was really into eugenics, he believed that anyone who he viewed as defective shouldn’t reproduce (according to some sources this even included his own wife, who had impaired hearing after a childhood illness – the Kings adopted a child), and should be segregated and sterilised.

The Plunket Society has long since moved on from King’s more terrible ideas, and does some wonderful work in New Zealand (though most recent research suggests that the huge drop in infant mortality in New Zealand between 1910 and 1939, which Plunket has long taken credit for, would have happened anyway due to medical advances and changing societal norms). Most people born in New Zealand in the last century can say that they were ‘a Plunket baby’ and that their mothers received check ups, help, and advice from visiting Plunket nurses. Plunket runs ‘toy lending libraries’, which I think are an absolutely wonderful idea (though unless they offer a severely discounted rate for less well off families, the annual price tag makes it strictly a middle class indulgence).

The Plunket Society has taken care to distance themselves from the less salubrious aspects of their origins. However, if they ever directly addressed or apologised for them, I cannot find any evidence of it. Their website still lauds King as ‘visionary’ and ‘idealistic’. Every major King and Plunket anniversary is celebrated in New Zealand with hyperbolic accolades that totally overlook their darker beginnings – and the terrible run on effect they had.

While Plunket abandoned King’s eugenics, anti-female-education-stance, and racism early on, other parts of the New Zealand medical system had much longer lasting impacts based on Kings ideas around eugenics. At one point almost 40% percent of all hospital beds in NZ were dedicated to ‘undesirables’ – up to 10,000 at a time – in a system “designed to isolate ‘defective’ members of the community, prevent them breeding, and ultimately strengthen New Zealand’s racial stock.” This system – a programme of state care that could sentence a mildly troubled orphaned 6 year old to a life of incarceration, continued into the 1990s. Edwardian eugenics at the end of the 20th century.

It’s a terrible thing. Problematic – to put it very lightly. And should be addressed. It should be on the signage at the Sir Truby King gardens. It’s part of their history. It’s part of his legacy. It should be on the Plunket website – with an apology and a recognition that it hasn’t been what they stood for for a long, long time. Because it’s part of their history. And if we don’t acknowledge our history, if we don’t acknowledge where we came from, for better or worse, we can’t move past it, and make sure that we don’t repeat it.

So I go to the gardens, and I use them as a backdrop, and I enjoy the good things about them: the place where they provide a space for people to run, and laugh, and walk, and enjoy, and another safe spot for native birds in the city. But I make sure I know who the gardens are named after – and all that he represented.

Footnotes:

*And some of which just aren’t my blogging cup of tea – not everything can be!

** Local readers are probably already taking guesses as to who the other one is. I foresee myself ending up with 4 more suggestions things we have named in honour of terrible people.

***It’s entirely possible there are places in Wellington named after terrible people who weren’t white dudes, but so far I haven’t found any.

† Yet another unfairness and iniquity related to Sir Truby King’s: Isabella was very much his helpmate, was hugely involved in Plunket, and was equally responsible for almost all his work . She wrote an incredibly influential newspaper column on childcare for years. And yet she received no individual honours. She has no biography in the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. She may also have been problematic, but she was influential. She shouldn’t be overlooked.

†† Read the articles linked. They are heart wrenching, and important.

The post The Sir Truby King Gardens (or, #1 in a series on Wellington places named in honour of problematic white dudes) appeared first on The Dreamstress.

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