From the Collection May 2019

In March 2019 we profiled our intern Regitze Phil, who was translating the Danish-language letters from Karen Holten to Percy Grainger.

Traditional Danish outfit belonging to Karen Holten, Grainger Museum Collection 04.5684

Exploring the Grainger Museum collection for other signs of Karen, we took the opportunity to photograph a Danish national costume, worn by Karen Holten in the first decade of the 20th century.

Detail, showing hand repairs, from Karen Holten’s Danish costume, Grainger Museum Collection 04.5684

The costume consists of a skirt, waistcoat and apron, made from printed cotton, and is well worn and much loved. The extensive hand-stitched repairs on the bodice are testament to a practice of ‘Make Do & Mend’, common in Karen’s era. We have seen a recent resurgence of this thrifty mentality, as evident by articles such as this one from The Guardian.

Thanks to Percy's archival zeal, we are fortunate to often have multiple forms of documentary evidence for the objects in our collection. Thus, as well as having Karen's entire costume, we also have photographs that depict Karen actually wearing these clothes, and on multiple occasions. Below you can see Percy and Karen in Denmark in the summer of 1909, whereby Karen is wearing the skirt, bodice and possibly the apron of the outfit highlighted above.

Asta Nutzhorn, Karen Holten and Percy Grainger, taken by Miss Mutzhorn, Slettestrand, Summer 1909, sepia-toned silver gelatin print, Grainger Museum Collection

Regitze’s article about Karen Holten will be published later in the year in the December 2019 issue of University of Melbourne Collections Magazine . We will be sure to let you know when this becomes available.

Embroidered linen blouse of Eastern European origin, belonging to Percy Grainger, n.d. Grainger Museum Collection, 04.5868