Next up on our LCFMA18 series is MA Fashion Curation graduate Gill MacGregor who studied the collection of Lady Ottoline Morell. Originally from a small village near Portsmouth, Hampshire, Gill is a theatre costumier turned fashion curator who has been working on various curation projects in the capital. We talk to gill about her work, inspiration and plans for the future.
Tell us about your final project…
I studied the wardrobe collection of Lady Ottoline Morrell – a remarkable woman on the fringes of the Bloomsbury Group. Her wardrobe was acquired by the Fashion Museum, Bath, in 2000, but remains mostly unstudied. She was a renowned eccentric dresser and many of her garments were historically styled and homemade in a very thrifty way – the exterior of many of the garments looks perfect, but the interior construction left a lot to be desired. This all means it is near impossible to date the pieces. I, therefore, compared the garments with references in her vast collection of family photographs – in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery – and from references in her diaries – belonging to the British Library, to assist in pinpointing when she might have worn them. The result of this study was a hypothetical exhibition; Conventionality Is Deadness: Art and Performance in the Wardrobe of Lady Ottoline Morrell, which combined traditional display techniques with theatrical conventions to reflect the theatricality of her dress.
What would be your top tips for new students…
Embrace the experience! Read everything you can and find something you can really get your teeth into.
What techniques did you use for your final major project…
Qualitative research focussing on the archival and object-based research of the aforementioned garments, photographs and diaries. I was also fortunate enough to get in contact with Ottoline’s grandson, Adrian, who provided me with many unique anecdotes and tidbits of information which wasn’t in the public domain. The outcome of the final project was my 10,000-word thesis, plus a model-box of my chosen exhibition space with the exhibition plotted in 1:50 scale, along with a sample guidebook and object-research sheets.
What made you chose LCF and London…
I’ve lived in London for many years, and LCF offers the only specialist course in Fashion Curation, so the choice was simple!
Monogrammed trousseau tap pants and slip, c. 1920s, Great Britain. A video by Sarah Hardcastle and Gill MacGregor, as part of the Collaborative Unit.
What were the highlights and biggest challenges of your course…
The biggest challenge was probably finding time for it all. I work as a Head of Wardrobe in the West End, which I was able to do alongside my studies – but left me with very little free time and dedicated study time. I found myself studying for quick changes.
The highlights…there’s so many! My tutors, Judith Clark, Jeffrey Horsley and Amy de la Haye are incredibly inspirational and genuinely passionate about this discipline. The ability to work alongside these practising Curators and Exhibition Makers was a wonderful experience.
Installing my first physical mini-exhibition in the vitrine at JPS was also a highlight. It was part of the Collaborative Unit, where I was working alongside the Underpinnings Museum. I was able to curate a small display which received many compliments.
What song or album are you currently listening to?
David Bowie’s ‘Diamond Dogs’ in equal measure with Joanna Newsom’s ‘Divers’.
Have you been in a work placement or internship…
I unofficially did a work placement at the V&A’s Textile Conservation Studio, doing Costume Mounting. It’s something I’d always been interested in, and after we had a lecture with Susan North, a Curator at the museum, she was able to put me in touch with the relevant people. It’s worked out quite well, as I’m now working at the studio part-time.
My biggest inspirations and muses are…
I don’t really know how to answer this…as a prolific exhibition visitor, I try to curate things that I would want to see, that develop upon experiences I’ve had at exhibitions. I’ve always been inspired by beautiful dress – preferably historic – and garments that can tell a story and show traces of past lives.
What are your plans for life after your MA…
Hopefully a bit of a rest! Working full time in theatre whilst studying is pretty hard going, so I definitely need a holiday. In the long run, I want to leave theatre – the working hours are too long and antisocial. I’d love to work in a museum – either Curating or Costume Mounting. But that’s a big decision I still need to make…
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