A peek behind-the-scenes at Emerald Cities: Chief Curator Forrest McGill and Textile Conservator Denise Migdail examine a partially completed costume mount. With the help of museum preparation staff, Denise has designed and built this diminutive torso and a set of elaborately cut rigid supports (only one is shown here) to show off an embroidered and sequined nineteenth-century Burmese court costume.
I’m pretty excited that we’re showing this costume the way it would have been worn. However, displaying costumes on three-dimensional mannequins can be more stressful to aging fabrics than exhibiting them flat. As a result, readying this costume for its big debut involved more than just designing a mount. The garment itself needed to be stabilized. Loose threads were carefully stitched down, damaged sequins repaired, and the weakest sections of fabric reinforced.
Typically, costumes such as this one were worn by Burmese courtiers for formal occasions. However, the very small size of this example also raises the possibility that it may have been for a child rather than an adult. Later on, many such garments had a second life as theatrical wear for actors playing royal roles. The look was not just limited to live action theater — For Emerald Cities, we will display the assembled costume across from a Burmese puppet sporting a miniature version of a court costume just like this one.
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