Saturday, June 30, 2012

Madame Weigel Presents

It's the first evening of the school holidays, with frogs singing from shadowy places in the waterlogged garden. My small industrious daughters have both chosen to start writing (Miss 6 - a story and Miss 7 - a book) so I shall write a little too.

Ephemera, of course, endears itself simply by the courage of its continued existence - but how seldom do we see a pattern company as a major sponsor of an important theatrical production?

Madame Weigel's was Australia's foremost producer of paper patterns. I love this poster especially because the first dress I ever attempted to make was from a vintage-even-then Madame Weigel's pattern from the early 1950s. I was about seventeen, with two years proud ownership of a Vactric sewing machine under my belt. I still have (and use) that machine - it is slightly older than I am and only performs one stitch now, a trusted friend which I wouldn't exchange for anything. I also still have that first dressmaking project, patiently waiting for a zipper to be sewn in at the side. There's no point in rushing these things.

The poster I believe dates to the summer pantomime season of 1913/14. The J C Williamson company would open an extravaganza in Melbourne for the Christmas holidays, and bring it up to Sydney for Easter, also undertaking extensive tours of New Zealand.

My parents owned an antique shop when I was young - not one of today's sterile shrines to French polish, but a beloved old building which they transformed from the original lending library/head shop they took over to a fossicker's paradise brimming with unbelievable treasures. When the J C Williamson company finally reached the end of its run in 1976, my parents arrived home from auction one evening bearing cartons spilling over with opulent costumes (thus assuring my primary school of years of extravagantly outfitted school plays).

So I love this poster for several reasons. The past is an enchanted land.


  1. As enchanting as the author and the threads she's drawn together here :)

    1. Ah, jones, jones, you are altogether too kind . . . Madame Weigel and her husband built a magnificent home at the foot of Mount Macedon in the late 19th century - it was so splendid that they named it Drusilla . . . .


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