By Mick Jensen
They might not have taken out one of the top prizes at the Fibre Octave Wearable Arts extravaganza in Southland, but a quartet from the Ashburton Red Hat Society enjoyed fun and laughter and a shared creative journey.
Led by talented hat maker Gabrielle Jones, with support from Joy Arthur, Shirley D’Ornay and Nettie Collins, part of the fun-loving group known as the Plains Dames, they created an impressive first-up costume for the event and named it Queen Whirly Shirley, after the president’s club name.
The front of the dress features the society’s trademark colours of red and purple and includes a belt representing the Southern Alps.
The back of the costume features intricate green and blues, symbolising the braided river system. There are also browns, yellows and greens to highlight the patchwork of fields on the Canterbury Plains.
Most of the material used for the costume was from off cuts of silk, satin, crepe, patchwork fabric and polyester.
A crowning red hat is made of home dyed sinnamay, with high tensile wire to give it shape.
The costume also features 44 windmills, dressed in purple and red fabric.
The windmills represent the fun, laughter and frivolity members of the Plains Dames enjoy and the bases were made by Lindsay Jones.
Gabrielle Jones said the whimsical, art couture costume “totally represented us”
It featured bright colours, had elements of fun and also referenced “our own beautiful area of New Zealand”
Mrs Jones said her daughter Pippa had encouraged the group to enter the awards, which were now in their seventh year, and she had also designed the costume.
It had taken a couple of months to put together and had been a collective effort “and so much fun”.
Queen Whirly Shirley was modelled, like all costumes at the wearable arts, by a student from Southland Girls High School.
Fibre Octave event manager Gaye McEroy said the Plains Dames costume was an extremely colourful and well thought out design, which had depicted the Canterbury Plains in “a very artistic manner”.
“I thought taking the colours of the Red Hats and connecting that to the landscape was very clever.
“It was also wonderful to have an entry from out of town designers.”
The winning costume was called Springroll of Paper and created from paper towels and layers of fused stickle puffs to create the illusion of a beautiful spring day.
Other award winners crafted their entries with materials that included balsa wood, playing cards and old footballs.