Black in Fashion: Wearing the colour black in New Zealand

Past exhibition

The Rugby World Cup tournament, which was hosted in New Zealand in 2011, inspired us to question why we choose to wear the colour black. Black in Fashion asks us to consider whether there is something essential about what it means to be a New Zealander encapsulated in the colour black?

Arriving home to New Zealand after a period away, you are immediately aware of the pervasiveness of the colour black in the way we dress. While everything in the Black in Fashion exhibition is connected by the colour, a closer look reveals other common threads and surprising differences that offer an insight into the wearing of black in New Zealand.

When Julia Torrens chose to have her silk and lace dress made in black in 1892 she was showing that she had achieved financial success in this new land. On the other hand, the black jersey worn by the musicians who created the Dunedin Sound nearly a century later was chosen because it was cheap and practical. When Yvette Williams won New Zealand’s first women’s Olympic gold medal in 1952, black was not a fashion choice but symbolic of a nation’s pride. In contrast, black was chosen deliberately by Shona Tawhiao for her Mauao dress to make a visual statement about her ideas on family and modern tribal relationships.

The exhibition includes more than 70 fashionable and other significant black garments and objects, as diverse as sports uniforms, gumboots and evening gowns. Themes include the wearing of black in early New Zealand, black in sport, black in music, black in authority, black from a Māori perspective, black in kiwiana, black fashion icons and the history of wearing black as a fashionable colour.

Curated by Doris de Pont.

Supported by REAL New Zealand Festival, Cooper and Company, McKee Fehl, Purfex, Office Furniture Hire, Apparel Line, ProVision Technologies, Big Colour and M&C Saatchi.

Watch a video of the exhibition, Black in Fashion: Wearing the colour black in New Zealand.

Garments in the exhibition

When & where

9 September - 24 October 2011

Britomart, Auckland

24 February - 18 March 2012