Gift gives insight into history

Model Mackenzie Bryant wears a gold sequinned top and trouser suit by designer Kevin Berkahn. The...
Model Mackenzie Bryant wears a gold sequinned top and trouser suit by designer Kevin Berkahn. The outfit is one of three designs previously given to Alma McElwain by Eden Hore and recently donated to the Eden Hore Central Otago fashion collection. PHOTO: WILL NELSON/CENTRAL OTAGO DISTRICT COUNCIL
Garments belonging to the women touted as the muse behind a farmer and his collection of haute couture gowns in a tractor shed have resurfaced.

Pull at the threads of the story of Eden Hore and you will come across his former "land girl" Alma McElwain.

Ms McElwain worked for Mr Hore on his high country station Glenshee between 1960 and 1972, carrying out stock work and spending hours on the tractor planting winter crops and developing the land.

During that time she learned modelling at Vanity Walk in Dunedin and is understood to have been instrumental in her former employer commencing his extensive collection of ladies’ couture fashion.

The pair attended events throughout New Zealand and internationally, and Mr Hore bought many garments for Ms McElwain, including a gown for her 21st birthday.

Mr Hore’s collection amassed over 270 gowns, primarily by New Zealand’s leading high-fashion designers of the 1970s and 1980s, and today provides a historical insight in to the country’s fashion history.

The collection is now owned by the Central Otago District Council (CODC) and the Eden Hore Central Otago (EHCO) initiative is charged with telling the unique tale.

After Ms McElwain’s death in June last year three garments purchased from her estate were anonymously donated to EHCO. The garments — a Lewis Townsend original white evening gown with an ostrich feather trimmed cape, a gold sequinned top and trouser suit by designer Kevin Berkahn, and a woven daywear coat by designer Colin Cole — complement the existing collection, providing more insights into New Zealand’s fashion history, fashion historian and EHCO co-patron and steering group member Dr Jane Malthus said.

They also recognised Ms McElwain’s part in the fabric of the Eden Hore story, she said.

"I was delighted that we could add these garments of Alma’s to the collection, and thereby recognise her significance in Eden’s collecting of New Zealand high fashion from the late 1960s and 1970s."

While admittedly biased, Dr Malthus said the Eden Hore collection was "extremely important" to New Zealand fashion history.

"If Eden had not collected these gorgeous gowns and kept them in his converted tractor shed near Naseby, I do not think they would still exist," she said.

"They are evidence of the high standard of fashion design and of the fantastic fabrics imported into New Zealand, or handmade by spinners and weavers in the 1960s and 1970s, and we are so lucky that they have survived. They are inspirational for designers now, and will be in to the future."