Collection Stories

Revolutionary Blouse

Isobel Duncan, born in Whanganui in 1877, owned this blouse.

Light and decorated with crochet and lace, this blouse is an example of a must-have fashion item at the turn of the twentieth century. A versatile addition to a woman’s wardrobe, it was appropriate for a variety of situations.

Blouses were among the first woman’s fashion item that could be mass produced, at relatively low cost, for the ready-to-wear market. Increasing numbers of women were working outside the home, cycling, and playing tennis and golf. A blouse with skirt and jacket also worked well at afternoon receptions or evenings at the theatre.

Isobel Duncan, born in Whanganui in 1877, owned this blouse.

In 1904 Isobel married Charles Mackay, a lawyer, local politician, and Mayor of Whanganui from 1906 to 1913 and then again from 1915 until 1920.

Isobel was active in the Whanganui community and an avid gardener. She was awarded an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) by King George V in 1918 for her service to the soldiers and families of Whanganui during World War One. She died in 1946.

By Trish Nugent-Lyne, Kaihāpai Taonga/Collections & Curatorial Lead

Image: Blouse, late 1890s to early 1900s.

Designer and maker unknown.

Donor Josephine Duncan 2008.

Photographed by Kathy Greensides
WRM 2008.60.94

View the full image.

Karen Hughes

1 March 2024

Fashion Talks