Home Sewn: Original New Zealand fashion

Past exhibition

Home sewing has always been a way to achieve what you can not buy, whether constrained by cost or availability. Many New Zealand designers discovered their passion for fabric and fashion at home. It was a mother or grandmother who taught them to sew clothes for their dolls or a dress for themselves and gave them the skills necessary to create a unique wardrobe.


The Home Sewn exhibition brings together examples of home sewn garments and the fashion illustrations and patterns that inspired their makers.

The pioneer women of New Zealand usually made the everyday clothing for their family; the underwear, shirts and pinafores, while clothes for ‘best’  were made by professional tailors and seamstresses. When dresses started to be readily available “off the peg” in retail stores in the 1920s, home sewing still remained the primary source of a woman's wardrobe with department stores and specialist fabric shops providing a rich choice of fabrics and up-to-date patterns.

Making your own clothes could be complex and time consuming but in the 1960s young designers like Mary Quant and Betsey Johnson, with their simple shapes, made it easy and fun. For the cost of two yards of fabric and a few hours to 'run up' a frock on a Saturday morning, a young woman could head out in the evening looking every inch the groovy miss. Having home sewing skills made fashion fast and affordable.

Today 'fast and affordable fashion' has a very different meaning. Global brands have created a fashion offering that is identical in London, Paris, New York and Auckland. In response to this sameness there is a new generation looking for ways to make something that is personal and hand-made. They are discovering that there is creative freedom inherent in an ability to sew.

Curated by Doris de Pont

Supported by Foundation North, Britomart, Purfex, Apparel Line

Watch a video of the Home Sewn: Original New Zealand fashion exhibition.

Garments in the exhibition

When & where

5 - 26 September 2012

The Nathan Gallery, Auckland

17 December 2012 - 17 February 2013

Whangarei Art Museum

9 March - 14 April 2013

Dunedin Public Art Gallery

10 August - 24 November 2013

The Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt