Looking Flash: Clothing in Aotearoa New Zealand


Edited by Bronwyn Labrum, Fiona McKergow & Stephanie Gibson

Looking Flash: Clothing in Aotearoa New Zealand is a valuable and welcome addition to the small, but steadily growing, literature on New Zealand dress and fashion history.’ – Laura Jocic, Textile History


Offering a fresh look at the role of clothes in New Zealand history, Looking Flash examines what we wear and what we have worn – from the shrinking bathing suit to the black singlet – over the past three centuries.

Fourteen historians, museum curators and researchers write about the way in which clothes reveal and identify, embody tradition and memory, are both local and global – showing that, despite a reputation for being wary of ‘looking flash’, New Zealand has not always been a dowdy country. Essays span the clothing of pre-colonial Maori society, marching girls and castaways, and include eighteenth-century heirloom dresses, hand-me-downs, wartime garb and kilts. There are also extraordinary stories about the fate of a Māori cloak and an Otago farmer’s remarkable collection of 1970s high-fashion garments.

Richly illustrated with fashion photographs, advertisements and cartoons, Looking Flash provides an original pathway into our history and culture – and proves that clothing reveals as much as it conceals.



Bronwyn Labrum is senior lecturer in the School of Visual and Material Culture at Massey University, Wellington. She was a Curator, History at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa 1996–2000, where she was responsible for the textile and clothing collection and exhibitions. She is co-editor of Fragments: New Zealand Social and Cultural History (AUP, 2000) and has published widely on the history of women, welfare and museums.

Fiona McKergow has been a researcher for Women Together: A History of Women’s Organisations and an editorial officer for The Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. From 1998 to 2001 she was social history curator at The Science Centre & Manawatu Museum (now Te Manawa), where she developed and promoted the institution’s clothing collection in a range of exhibitions.

Stephanie Gibson is a history curator at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. Previously she was part of the redevelopment team for the Museum of Wellington City and Sea, and the first Collection Manager of the Adam Art Gallery, Victoria University. She has exhibited clothing in numerous exhibitions.


December 2007, 215 x 160 mm, 300 pages, illustrations
Paperback, ISBN 9781869403973, $49.99