This smart fuchsia wool crêpe suit completes our survey of fashion trends with a flourish. It dates from the late 1940s, just as Christian Dior’s ‘New Look’ reached Otago and the rationing of fabric ended, unveiling a new style of women’s clothing that would characterise the next decade or more. This suit still has padded shoulders and the square boxy look reminiscent of a military uniform. Dior reacted against these characteristic wartime features with softer rounded shoulders and full skirts that emphasised a gentler ideal of femininity. There is nonetheless a subtle elegance in this neatly tailored suit, darted and pleated to give shape and simply embellished with cord embroidery on the jacket. It looks practical yet stylish; ideals that typify the women who had just held the country together through the greatest war in history.

Margaret Marshall (née McNair) designed and made this suit to wear to her eldest daughter’s wedding in 1948. Margaret (Madge) was born at Dunstan Downs Station, Omarama, in 1908. Madge spent her childhood there and learned the many practical skills - cooking, dressmaking and horse riding - that were commonplace for a young girl of her time. The McNairs moved to Oamaru when she was a teenager and Madge married Roy Marshall at the age of 18. They had two daughters, settling in Balclutha where Roy worked at the local freezing works. Madge kept her family fed and clothed during the depression and war years, tirelessly unpicking clothes that were re-sewn or knitted into new garments. In later years she taught arts and craft at the South Otago High School. She was well known in Balclutha for her elegance and style when wearing the many clothes she designed and made herself. Madge lived in Balclutha until her death in 1994.
Margaret Marshall
Production Date
Circa 1948