Costume and Textile Association of New Zealand

2002 –

Costume and Textile Association of New Zealand

2002 –

Theme: Arts and crafts

Known as:

  • New Zealand Costume and Textile Section of the Auckland Museum Institute
    2002 – 2008
  • Costume and Textile Association of New Zealand
    2008 –

The Costume and Textile Association of New Zealand (CTANZ) was established in 2002 as the New Zealand Costume and Textile Section of the Auckland Museum Institute. [1] It was founded by Angela Lassig, Tracey Wedge and Laura Jocic, following a successful one-day costume and textiles themed symposium held in Auckland in 2002. Lassig was then Assistant Curator of Decorative and Applied Arts at the Auckland War Memorial Museum, where Wedge was a Textile Conservator. Jocic, with a Master of Arts in Museum and Fashion Collections from Melbourne University, was a registrar at the Auckland Art Gallery. They based the association on international models, such as the Costume Society of Great Britain and the Textile Society of America; [2] but given New Zealand’s small population, they decided to bring the two related disciplines of costume and textiles together under one umbrella organisation, administrated by a volunteer committee.

By the beginning of the twenty-first century, the study of historic and contemporary dress had ‘become one of the new “hot” subjects for academics and theorists’ internationally. [3] As pioneering British dress historian Lou Taylor noted, this was the result of a long campaign by dress historians since the 1970s to erode ‘the gender and subject-based prejudices against fashion and fashion history within the academic and museum worlds’. [4]  The emergence of CTANZ in the early 2000s in New Zealand reflected this growing international interest in dress and textile histories, and the desire, particularly of the museum professionals who founded it, to promote research into what was a largely an untapped area of study in New Zealand.

The riding habit

Riding habit

This sidesaddle riding habit was made for wealthy young Wairarapa woman Jessie Meta Johnston (1883–1963) by Busvine & Co., London, about 1905. Studying the history of the riding habit reveals how active upper-class women gradually adopted clothing associated with men, including the tailored jacket, top hat, cravat, and, most controversially, trousers. This habit includes jodhpurs and a patented apron ‘Safety Skirt’, which would not catch on the saddle pommels in an accident. When first launched, it was ‘looked upon as a very fast garment, not to be worn ‘by a lady with a shred of modesty’, because a dismounting rider’s legs could be seen from the back. [9]

Image credit: Te Papa, Reg. GH016964

CTANZ aimed to provide an accessible, collegial and lively forum for fostering and sharing research relating to dress and textile histories in Aotearoa New Zealand, many of which intersect with women’s histories as makers, users and wearers. Though membership was open to all, it was predominantly female, reflecting the gendering of dress and textiles studies internationally (although by 2019 it had had two male presidents: professional pattern maker John Kite, and design historian Douglas Lloyd Jenkins). Its members comprised museum and gallery professionals (including curators, textile conservators and collection managers); academics from across a range of disciplines; professional and amateur practitioners, dealers and collectors; and people who simply had a passion for dress and textiles. 

In keeping with its focus on the dissemination of research, activities revolved primarily around a much anticipated annual symposium and the biannual publication Context: dress/fashion/textiles. The first three symposiums and wider event programmes, including lectures, studio visits and workshops, were primarily Auckland-based. In 2005, in what Dr Jane Malthus, a Dunedin based member, described as a ‘brave move’, the executive empowered an active group of Otago-based members to hold the fourth annual symposium, Southern Threads: Connection, dress, cloth, culture, in Dunedin. [5]

This provided a wider national reach, and marked the beginning of an organisational shift. In 2007 several Auckland-based executive members left the group to pursue career opportunities.  In order to ensure the organisation’s survival, the remaining members decided to consider ‘a future . . . that included the executive being based outside Auckland’. The Dunedin conference group, headed by Malthus, were invited to come up with a proposal to take over running the association. [6] Their proposal for a three year term committee was accepted at the 2007 AGM.  [7]

In 2008, the new executive changed the organisation’s name to the Costume and Textile Association of New Zealand, and worked to transform Context, which began as a newsletter, into a research journal that could include peer reviewed essays as well as more popular writing.  Their aim was to increase publishing opportunities for researchers working in a New Zealand context, [8] and to provide an accessible forum for emerging researchers and writers. The journal featured a mix of peer reviewed essays, articles, interviews, exhibition and book reviews, and collection foci covering both contemporary and historical dress and textiles.

CTANZ’s annual symposium continued to be held in a different town or city each year, usually organised by members from that community, often in partnership with a local institution such as a tertiary provider or museum. The symposium, which grew from one to two days, typically featured the formal presentation of conference papers, including keynote addresses. Each symposium sub-committee was encouraged to add their own spin, including workshops, field trips and behind the scenes visits highlighting local dress and textile histories.  By 2018 the symposium was attracting between 80 and 130 delegates each year, including speakers from Australia and further afield.

Claire Regnault


[1] The Auckland Museum Institute is ‘the membership body for Auckland Museum and a facilitator of lifelong learning and knowledge sharing’. Auckland Museum Institute,

[2] The Costume Society of Great Britain was founded in 1964, following an inaugural meeting held at the Victoria and Albert Museum. The Textile Society of America was founded in 1987 and governed by a board of directors from museums and universities.

[3] Cumming, Valerie, Understanding Fashion History, Costume & Fashion Press/Quite Specific Media London, 2004, p. 8.

[4] Taylor, Lou, ‘Fashion, textiles and dress history: a personal perspective by Lou Taylor’, Arts and Culture, University of Brighton website,,-textiles-and-dress-history-a-personal-perspective-by-lou-taylor

[5] Malthus, Jane and Catherine Smith, ‘Review: The NZ Costume and Textile Section Symposium 2005: Southern Threads’, Context: dress/fashion/textiles 7, July–October 2005, p. 3.

[6] Kite, John, ‘President’s Report of the New Zealand Costume & Textile Section of the Auckland Museum Institute’, Context: dress/fashion/textiles 13, July–October 2007, p. 3.

[7] Malthus, Jane, ‘Annual Report 2007’, Context: dress/fashion/textiles 16, July–October 2008, p. 3.

[8] ‘From the Editor’, Context: dress/fashion/textiles 17, July–November 2008, p. 3.

[9] The Queen, 23 January 1910, quoted in Irene Foster, ‘The Development of Riding Costume c. 1880–1920’, Costume, Vol. 3 No. 1, 1969, pp. 55–60.

Published sources

Context: dress/fashion/textiles, 2008–

Further sources

Costume and Textile Association of New Zealand website:

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