Collection Stories

Professional and Pretty

The owner of this 1970s dress, Mrs Lila Campbell, donated the dress to Whanganui Regional Museum in 1997.

This smart sleeveless dress has accordion pleats and a matching belt. Made from jersey knit, it was manufactured in New Zealand by Leder III. Owner Lila Campbell wore it for almost two decades.

Lila was born in 1920 in Ohakune and her father later taught at Gonville School in Whanganui. She married John Friend in March 1943 but divorced him to marry Ronald Campbell in 1945. They settled on a farm in Turakina Valley and brought up eight children.

Once her youngest was old enough in the 1970s, Lila went back to work and taught at Rangitikei School. Her new income meant she could maintain a fashionable and functional wardrobe. She bought this dress at Whanganui’s flagship department store on the corner of Guyton St and Victoria Avenue, at the point when it was changing its name from McGruer’s Whanganui Department Store to John Court Ltd. Perhaps she purchased it in the huge stocktake sale before the shop changed names.

This dress was one of 18 items that Lila donated to the Museum in 1997, along with mini and maxi skirts, jumpsuits, crimplene trouser suits, footwear and a bathing suit, the wardrobe of her teaching life. She died in 2012.

By Dr Bronwyn Labrum, Pou Ārahi/Director at Whanganui Regional Museum.

Image: Lila Campbell’s dress

About 1970. Made by Leder III, New Zealand
Photographed by Kathy Greensides
WRM 1997.52.5

View the full-length image.

Karen Hughes

1 April 2024

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