Thousands of theater costumes for sale

Wanaka Theater Group costume designer Susan Manson will bow one last time this weekend on behalf of the seamstresses who have built a large collection of theater costumes for the city.

Around 10,000 items will go on sale over the Queen’s birthday weekend and the vintage collection is attracting national attention.

“We have to sell everything… We are no longer hiring, we are no longer doing shows. The town hall is going to do earthworks under [the building where the collection is housed] here, so we had to move and we took the opportunity to pass things on and give them a second life. I hope people will like them and wear them,” she said.

“I think there are definitely several thousand pieces of clothing and then we have all the hats, all the bags, all the gloves, all the shoes, all the scarves, all the belts and other random pieces, couture pieces , so there are probably more than 10,000 articles,” Ms. Manson said.

Margaret Trimble, who died in 2005, founded the wardrobe.

“She started making the costumes, building the resource and asked me to help her…

“My mother [Frances] was involved as a production manager for several years, so I got drawn into other things as well, like box office and props. We did a lot of shows.

“We used to do a big musical and then next year something smaller, like a variety show, all in the old venue.”

One of her favorite dresses is a 1960s cocktail dress – “I love bead work”; another a 1950s or 1960s silk opera coat – “it’s so soft and lush to the touch”.

Furs, in their time, would have been quite chic.

“It’s an ermine choker you could fool around in for afternoon tea. The poor little thing has two feet, one eye and two tails. I don’t know where it came from the spare one. But you just throw it over your shoulder, put on hats and gloves and go have a cup of tea…”

“The women brought all these fancy clothes and discovered that Wanaka was not fancy. But these [rabbit furs] will be 50, 60 years old. I know furs have ethical issues but these guys are vintage, long dead and deserve another life.”

Ms Manson has made many good friends over the years in the wardrobe, including students from Mount Aspiring College who have helped her in the community program.

“I’m sad that the resource is gone. Some things I’m quite emotionally attached to [to]. Others, I’m just glad they’re being used again,” she said.

The Wanaka Theater Group Apparel, Collectibles and Costume Sale will take place June 4-5 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. at the Wanaka Showgrounds, McDougall St, behind the A&P Show building.