ISSN: 2050070X
First published in 2014
2 issues per volume
Volume 4 Issue 1
Cover Date: April 2017
Fancy dress: The uniform, the prime minister and the Empire
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Authors:  Stephanie Pfennigwerth 
DOI: 10.1386/csmf.4.1.63_1

masculinity,court dress,civil uniform,ceremony,British Empire,museum exhibition,textile conservation

In 2013 the Museum of Australian Democracy acquired a bicorn hat and a tattered, stained coatee: the last surviving components of the first-class civil uniform of Australia’s first prime minister, Sir Edmund Barton (1849–1920). Sir Edmund was a Privy Councillor and wore this uniform at the Coronation of Edward VII in London in 1902. He also wore it at a number of other events including an investiture ceremony which, The Australasian reported, ‘was like a fancy-dress ball, in which the men were the chief figures’. This article discusses the process and deliberations surrounding the preparation of Sir Edmund’s uniform and its narrative for exhibition. It documents how historical and conservation research into the provenance and materiality of the uniform created the basis for an examination of Imperial dress protocols and practises, and Australia’s ties to the British Empire. The article will also discuss how the uniform – unravelled, deconstructed, stabilized and reassembled – provided intimate evidence of under-explored aspects of Sir Edmund’s personality, activities and contribution to Australian social and political history.
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