… But most of all, it’s fashion!

Friday, March 24th, 2017 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Post by Amanda Mills, Curator of Music and AV

It’s iD fashion week here in Dunedin, and an opportunity to highlight an interesting piece of fashion-related audiovisual material in Hocken’s collections. The song It’s Fashion by Jack Roberts and Ian Couldrey was created as the theme for Ross and Glendining’s  fashion show.

Credit It’s Fashion. 1961. Lyrics by Ian Couldrey, and music by Jack Roberts. Hocken Sound Recordings Rec-S 3362

The company Ross and Glendining (founded by John Ross and Robert Glendining) was established in Dunedin in 1862, when they bought a local Dunedin retail drapery business. Changing to an import and warehousing business within three years, they sold imported fashion goods, though some of the most popular goods sold included blankets, and hosiery. To create woollens, they built the Roslyn Woolen Mill in 1879 for production of consumables like yarn, blankets and flannels, and several years later, they introduced knitting machines to produce hosiery and clothing. While expanding their clothing manufacturing business throughout New Zealand, Dunedin was still their main centre, opening a clothing factory in 1883 to manufacture men’s and boy’s clothing (under the Roslyn label), a hat factory in 1901, and also manufacturing footwear  from 1908, and neckwear from 1957. The list of brands Ross and Glendining manufactured was large, and included Mayfair Shoes, Roslyn Blankets and Rugs, Osti Lingerie, Glenross Millinery, Aotea Knitting Wool, and Sacony Fashions.

Mimosa Lingerie.[1959]. Ross and Glendining: Records, Hocken Collections AG-512/066 S09-529g.

Originally a staid manufacturer of wool, and an importer of garments, Ross and Glendining did not enter the world of fashion until the late 1950s and “stunned trade buyers with an innovative fashion show in Auckland at which they displayed their latest… creations” (Jones, 2010, p. 341). The show (held at the Winter Garden of the Great Northern Hotel) ran for 106 minutes, and used a three-piece orchestra and 10 models (eight adults and two children). The idea for this show came from Ian Couldrey, the company’s sales controller, well known in national publicity circles (Jones, 2010, p 341). The show had three successful nights before moving on to Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin, and a film was made of the shows to feature in smaller centres. This was promised to be the first of many fashion events for the company.

Unfortunately, the motion picture of this 1960 show is not part of Hocken’s large collection of Ross and Glendining records; in fact, no copies seem to exist. This is a significant gap in the collection, and, if found, would be a fantastic addition to our records of the company.

It’s Fashion is stated as being written for Ross and Glendining’s 1961 fashion show, but the annual reports and records don’t document any event that year, so the date may have been incorrectly attributed – perhaps the song was written for the 1960 show. It’s Fashion was written  for the event by Roberts and Couldrey. The song is in the popular genre of the day – a charming piano-driven mid-tempo, melodic pop-ballad, sung in the style of Doris Day (sadly, there is no mention of the female vocalist’s name). The performance is sweet, and appropriate for the show, which while innovative at the time, would likely not be cutting-edge by today’s standards. Regardless, this lovely song is one of few recorded specifically for a fashion show and an interesting, and modern, approach for Ross and Glendining to take to advertise their fashion lines.

It’s Fashion.



Jones, S.R.H. (2010). Doing well and doing good: Ross and Glendining Scottish enterprise in New Zealand. Dunedin, New Zealand: Otago University Press.

The real housewives of Dunedin: the Dunedin Housewives’ Union Dunedin Housewives’ Association : Records (1930 – 1977) AG-002

Wednesday, March 8th, 2017 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Post prepared by Kari Wilson-Allan, Hocken Collections Assistant, Researcher Services

Today being International Women’s Day, it seems fitting to delve into the history of some Dunedin women – our own real housewives.

Established in late 1930, in the midst of the Great Depression, the Dunedin Housewives’ Union, headed up by the dynamo Mrs Alice Herbert, aimed to become a ‘real live and effective power in this part of the Dominion’. Meetings were held fortnightly, initially in the Dunedin Trades Hall, with a 2/6 annual membership fee.

First page, Minute Book (1930 – 1941) AG-002-01

Subjects under discussion revolved around, among other things, the quality and cost of foodstuffs, fuel, schoolbooks, and housing. Meat was ‘the foundation of the usual daily dinner’ and therefore ‘of utmost importance to the housewife’. That available in Dunedin was the ‘dearest in the Dominion’.  Milk and bread also drew attention; calls for the pasteurisation of milk and the packaging of bread appeared in local newspapers, along with requests for a municipal milk supply as a means to cut distribution costs.

Media coverage of riots in Dunedin, Otago Witness, 12 January 1932, p.20.

Fundraising events were common features in the women’s calendars. They organised bazaars, jumble sales, hat-trimming competitions, guess-the-weight-of-the-ham competitions (ham kindly supplied by Wolfenden and Russell), even baby shows.  A ‘hot pea and hot dog stall’ in 1931 was the cause of ‘much meriment [sic] ’.

As well as supporting the community with events like the 1933 party for the old-age pensioners at Talboys’ Home (lollies donated by Wardell’s Grocery), which was intended to ‘bring a little brightness into their drab lives’, the women looked after their own.  One member was gifted cocoa as she was ‘in great need of additional nourishment’.

The employment and unemployment of women concerned the Union.  It was recognised that often young women would be hired for a short period of time and then dismissed, leading to insecurity.  Compounding the problem was the higher costs of living in the South Island, where food and clothing were dearer.  The importation of foreign goods also raised their ire.

Temptations to housewives, Minute Book (1930 – 1941) AG-002-01, p.144

Housing conditions were decried; condemned buildings were at times tenanted. Washing facilities were in short supply, women needed to be recruited as inspectors, and to have a larger role in the City Council over all.

Housewives’ concerns, Minute Book (1930 – 1941) AG-002-01, p.125

Meetings often featured speakers or debates.  One such debate in 1933 on the subject of birth control proved to be ‘very interesting’, and at its conclusion, members shared their personal opinions, which were both ‘amusing and instructive’.

A selection of speakers’ subjects in the Union’s first decade, Notes on the history of the Association, AG-002-13


Who were the women of the Union?  This is not an easy question to answer.  Members of the Executive of the first year included a Mrs. Seddon, a Mrs. Anderson and a Mrs. Allen.  Without their first initials, finding the correct woman in electoral rolls has proved to be a minefield.  Sometimes the addition of a husband’s initial was a vital clue.

The members certainly had adequate time to contribute to their cause, to pay their annual dues and rent their premises.  Based on this and a number of other clues, I surmise that they were certainly not the poorest of the poor at that time.  They had education behind them, and political contacts.

Alice Herbert’s husband was the Secretary for the Dunedin Drivers’ and Storemens’ Union, and he, along with Alice, was heavily involved in the Labour Party.  In 1934, Alice tendered her resignation for the president’s role, based on her other commitments, but this was refused pending a determination of how time-consuming her other political activities would prove to be.  That the Union did not accept her resignation seems a signifier of her great influence and energy.

Women around New Zealand came to hear of the Dunedin Union, and made contact, wanting to establish similar groups of their own.  Unions formed in Invercargill, Waimate and Napier and elsewhere, eventually growing a network around the country.  Affiliations with the National Council of Women developed, and by the 1950s, the name Union was dropped for the less combative sounding Association.

It would be unfair of me to allude to ‘real housewives’ without supplying some element of drama.  The minutes do indicate certain conflicts of interest, perceived insults and tempestuous resignations, but to focus on these would belittle the valuable contributions made to the community.  Certainly as membership grew, challenges arose.  Rules were established, and prospective members needed to be introduced by current members to be admitted.  By June 1934 there was concern that ‘misrepresentation’ could arise as a consequence of ‘business [of the Union] being discussed outside the organization’, and in October of that year it was declared that ‘loyalty to our union must be shown.’

Minute Book (1930 – 1941) AG-002-01, p.164


Curiosity piqued by this first minute book?  Come in and explore them further.  The minute books stretch from 1930 through to 1974, are unrestricted, and contain myriad avenues for investigation.