Sinead Burt, Assistant Curator – History, holding a 1980 Ruth Tarvydas design. Image courtesy WA Museum.
The magic of Ruth Tarvydas, a pioneering Western Australian fashion designer, will live on through the WA Museum with thirty-five of her iconic garments being gifted in perpetuity. For the past year, the WA Museum has worked on accessioning the garments, ensuring conservation of the intricate design and workmanship of Tarvydas’s unique collection. The Foundation was instrumental in providing financial support for the conservation and curation works.
Dress, silver silk, halter neck style, sheer fabric with ‘hands in gloves’ detail, designed by ‘Ruth Tarvydas’, Perth, Western Australia. Image courtesy WA Museum.
One hundred and thirty-seven Ruth Tarvydas garments were assessed, with WA Museum curators devising a matrix which allowed them to rate each garment according to a standardised set of criteria. Most relevant to the collection were the historic and aesthetic values, with comparative consideration given to provenance, representativeness, condition and interpretative potential. Substantial research underpinned this assessment, and as a result the garments chosen were proposed as the most significant and representative from Tarvydas’ career.
These garments were subsequently shown to relevant stakeholders for feedback. After community consultation the garments were presented to the WA Museum’s Acquisition Committee to ensure they complied with the Collection Policy. The Committee supported the selection of garments, and they were registered into the State’s collection.
The garments chosen epitomize the impact Tarvydas had on the fashion industry and her contribution to Western Australia. It is the largest and most comprehensive collection of Ruth Tarvydas in any institution in the world and demonstrates her forty-six-year career, talent and tenacity to forge a successful international career which saw her haute couture pieces shown in London and Paris and stocked in the UK, Europe and the US.
The Foundation’s Role
The conservation and curation work that the collection needed was made possible with thanks to the generosity of three of the Foundation’s long-term donors – Ruth Phelps, Bridget Faye AM and The Friends of the WA Museum as well as a contribution from the Foundation’s Discovery Endowment Fund. All played a part in preserving the story of one of WA’s most prolific and iconic fashion designers. As part of the Foundation’s funding, the WA Museum was also able to purchase new storage furniture to house the collection.
Display at the New Museum
The Museum intends to showcase garments from this iconic Collection within the New Museum. Ruth Tarvydas will be one of several WA’s prominent creative individuals to be featured as leading the way and representing WA as a State of innovation, ingenuity and cutting-edge research. An exhibition brief for a proposed Ruth Tarvydas temporary exhibition has been accepted, and will progress accordingly.
Dress, purple French lurex, strapless with shirred fitted bodice, above-the-knee skirt with tiered ruffles and disconnected tie detail, designed by ‘Ruth Tarvydas’, Perth, Western Australia, 1991. Image courtesy WA Museum.
The Tarvydas Collection is an excellent example of contemporary collecting and will greatly strengthen the WA Museum’s fashion and textile collection. The conservation and curation works allow the Museum to digitise, document, and conserve the garments to make them accessible to the wider public via exhibition and global online access.