Museum Life: what do curators wear?

What do museum curators wear to work? Head to toe black or a flamboyant ostrich feather coat?  Far from business wear, museums often have very relaxed dress codes with a plethora of styles worn by staff. Many curators dress in a way that reflects their subject area. Whether that’s Asian art, or jewellery, their interests and passions often resonate in their dress.

Photo: Sotha Bourn. Reproduced courtesy of the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney

When I had my photo taken which features on my Worn Through profile I considered long and hard what to wear. I wanted to show my a love of 1950s fashion without looking like I was wearing part of the collection! I’ve spoken about this before and it is very common to be asked if I wear the Museums fashion collection! For this shoot I settled on a black reproduction 50s style dress trying to distinguish myself from the 1950s sundresses from the collection, shown in the shot.

Stalking the Museums hallways, I’ve been documenting what my colleagues wear to work. Curators are a busy lot though and are hard to catch and here is a run down of some outfit details I was able to catch.

Anni Turnball, Curator of Social History often wears green with chunky accessories .

Lindie Ward, Curator of Decorative Arts and Design with a specialisation in textiles and shoes, wears an interesting pair of shoes from Turkey with a West African textile.

Lace specialist and former curator Rosemary Shepherd wears a suitable brooch featuring an Elizabethan lace-wearing cat.

What you wear to work may not be considered important in some industries. In many professions a prescribed uniform is worn and in many others a dress code is enforced. In museums, on the other hand, curators often dress in a way, which reflects their love and passion for a collection area. They are after all keepers of some of the most beautiful objects and why not show this in dress?

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  • Monica February 17, 2012 02.08 pm

    Very enjoyable post Rebecca! I love seeing workplace dress (the subject of my dissertation) as I think it’s a place we spend so much of our lives, and yet many people feel they need to comply to prescribed notions of what workplace attire means, even if it sacrifices their own distinctiveness. It’s great to see how the coworkers at your museum find a balance of professional and personal.

  • Rebecca February 17, 2012 10.14 pm

    Hi Monica,

    I find workplace dressing very interesting as well! The Museum I work at is on edge of the central business district of Sydney, when I walk into the city I like to count the number of blue and white striped shirts I see on business men. There are many!

    I read this blog post recently on the diminished wearing of skirt suits. You may find it interesting



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