Glen Innes History House exhibition takes you down to the bare skin

Jenny Anderson, curator of the exhibition.
Jenny Anderson, curator of the exhibition.

In the Glen Innes Show at the end of the week, there’ll be something not to be missed: a fascinating fashion parade of underwear – the kind of garments from this area which your great grandparents and beyond might have worn.

It will include corsets, petticoats – and what the ladies behind the show call “crutchless pants” from the Victorian era in New England.

Underwear: Part 1

The Glen Innes History House’s Jenny Anderson and Jenny Sloman have put together a display which includes a dress that weighs a kilogram, a dress with an eighteen inch waist and a pair of underpants – knickers – which made it easier for ladies to respond when nature called but they were wearing layer upon layer of dress and petticoat.

Jenny Anderson explained that propertied Victorian women were so burdened with thick clothing that need came before etiquette.

“This is a pair of knickers which don’t have a crutch”, she said. “They don’t have a crutch because if you think ‘voluminous skirts’, it was much easier to stand when nature called rather than trying to sit.”

So now you know.

The exhibition will be done as a fashion show with the garments modeled by local women – apart from one dress which has an 18 inch waist, and they simply couldn’t find a model thin enough.

The whole show is a truly fascinating insight into the way fashion has changed and the way the burden on women has changed – literally the burden on women because some of the garments are impossible to imagine wearing with anything approaching comfort. 

The clothes come from the Newstead property between Glen Innes and Inverell. They were left in trunks and discovered when parts of the property were sold.

Jenny Sloman, organiser of the exhibition.

Jenny Sloman, organiser of the exhibition.

Eventually, they were given to the History House Museum in Glen Innes, and they throw a poignant, human light on the way propertied ladies dressed in the late 19th century in New England.

It seems they came from the Anderson family which migrated from Scotland, and perhaps to the descendants of one Mary Sinclair who was born in 1818 at Muckairn in Scotland.

According to a genealogy website, “In 1839, she married Colin Alexander Anderson and, shortly after their marriage, the couple sailed to Australia on the ‘Superb’ arriving in Sydney in December 1839. By 1841, they were settled at Newstead in northern New South Wales.

“Upon the death of her husband in 1852, Mary Anderson was left to rear seven young children and manage the Newstead property.”

“Sadly two of her daughters, Mary (1840-1853) and Margaret (1845-1853), died from scarlet fever that year. In August, 1854, Mary and her five surviving children sailed for England, leaving her cousin Charles Campbell in charge of Newstead.”

She spent the rest of her life going back and forth between New England and old England and Scotland. But she died here in 1857 at the age of 57 and is buried in Newstead cemetery.

If these clothes in the History House are hers or those of her daughters and grand-daughters, think of them when you watch the fashion show this Friday and Saturday (5 pm on Friday and 1 pm and 5.30 pm on Saturday at the Centennial Pavilion).

We’ve split out video into two: part 1 is about corsets and 18 inch waists, and part 2 is the sexy bit, about “crutchless pants”!

Part 1 is on Monday on the Examiner website and Part 2 is on Tuesday and then later in the week, we’ll combine them and play the longer version. Enjoy.

This story How to fit into a dress with an 18 inch waist | VIDEO first appeared on Glen Innes Examiner.