Katherine Mansfield 1888-1923

One of the most lauded and influential of New Zealand writers, Katherine Mansfield died in France on 9 January 1923, of tuberculosis. Although only 34, she left behind a legacy of short fiction that continues to inspire. A century after her birth, the Katherine Mansfield Birthplace Society restored the listed house on Wellington’s Tinakori Road in which she spent her early life, and opened it to the public as a museum for Mansfield and an example of the home of a wealthy colonial family of the late Victorian era.

The Katherine Mansfield House & Garden has created and is managing a project to mark the centenary of Mansfield’s death: https://www.km23.co.nz/ includes details of events and coverage both locally and internationally.

Suggestions for DIY events include a dressing up party, which is not just a random suggestion for an excuse to frock up like it’s the early 1920s: Mansfield was very much attuned to dress. Her stories often feature details of costume and appearance: an old fur, a checked bowtie, a white dress worn with green stockings and shoes. Her own outfits were also often remarked upon, from her earlier life as a member of Wellington society to her later life in British literary and artistic circles.

Stockings (English or French), c1910. Silk, machine knit. KMBS0506.15 – Gift of David McDougall.

In 2022 the Katherine Mansfield House hosted a special exhibition curated by costumier and fashion and textile historian Leimomi Oakes, showcasing textiles from the House’s collections of women’s dress contemporary to Mansfield’s life in Wellington. Although now packed away, Meet the Making is available as an online exhibition, including links to other discussion on Mansfield’s fashion sense and also a curatorial talk. There will, no doubt, be other activities during the year that touch on Mansfield’s style, but this exhibition provides an insight into the fashion of the smart set of the Victorian-Edwardian age and is small and stylish, just like Mansfield’s prose.

Exhibition photographs by Stephen A’Court, reproduced courtesy of the Katherine Mansfield Birthplace.

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