Students Sarah-Mary Geissler and Caroleen Molenaar are behind an ambitious exhibition of dress at Brighton’s historic Preston Manor.
Dressing the Decades runs until the 20th September 2018, and Preston Manor is holding several events relating to the exhibition throughout the summer. Still to come are a guided tour of the exhibition on 21st July, a kids dress-up day on 25th August and an archive talk on 22nd September.
The Manor is currently celebrating its 85th anniversary and has seen a colourful array of people pass through its doors from WWII operatives to modern day ghost hunters.
Both students, Sarah studies MA History of Design and Material Culture and Caroleen studies BA Fashion and Dress History started out cataloguing the costume collection, and over many months they collected correspondence within the Manor’s archives, alongside oral testimonies and photographic sources to discover nine decades worth of fashion stories. Here they could apply the skills learnt from their respective courses in a professional setting.
Once anecdotes and cultural moments were unearthed from the archives, Sarah-Mary and Caroleen had the challenge of sourcing period garments to best communicate these stories. Following this, they had to figure out where to place each outfit to create a cohesive trail for visitors to follow. Instead of setting aside a large room to display every outfit, it was decided to approach the display as an intervention at the house. The exhibition consists of ten mannequins in nine rooms representing dress from 1933 to today, set out in a trail which begins appropriately in the Entrance Hall.
The two students were trained to mount mannequins, a surprisingly arduous and intricate task, and were responsible for the placement of each mannequin in rooms which articulated with their particular stories. Both were fortunate enough to work closely with Preston Manor throughout the process of submitting the exhibition proposal through to leading tours of the trail. Preston Manor has never before held a display quite like this, and as a volunteer-led project the co-curators were able to put all their energy, fashion history knowledge and love for dress into each mounted garment in the exhibition.