19th Century, Admire, Sewing

Hoopskirts in the Park

Our first photo location for last week’s hoopskirt photoshoot with Theresa was a big park on the edge of the green  belt in Wellington – the same park I used for the pet-en-l’aire photoshoot.

I’ve long thought that the park, with it’s long, sloping green lawn interspersed with pohutakawa and eucalyptus trees, had distinct English pastoral possibilities.  If Capability Brown  had had access to pohutakawa he would have planted in them.  They are the perfect representation of 19th century New Zealand’s complicated relationship with identity.  For 11 months of the year they are elegant faux English oak trees, and then for one month of the year they break out in flaming red SOUTH PACIFIC WONDERLAND! colours.  This is pretty much how New Zealand was for a good century: torn between being more English than the English, immensely proud of not being English and their new national culture, and not sure what to do with the Polynesian culture they were living side by side with.

In any case, the pohutakawa lawn was perfect for a hoopskirt photoshoot – or would be, when the light cooperates, which it didn’t for us.  On a good afternoon at three pm the light streams down the meadow, and lights it up in a golden glow.  This time, a low overcast stopped the light and it was all rather grey and glaring.

At least the weather cooperated.  When Madame O and I did the pet shoot (that sounds dreadful!) Wellington was in the midst of a months-long drought, and everything was sere and brown.  This time, thanks to a royalty induced month of downpours (Wellington’s weather gods clearly have Republican (in the British sense) tendencies, as we had brilliant weather until the day the royals arrived, crap weather for their entire visit here, and their visit in Australia (just in case they had any ideas about coming back over the ditch) and have had rather brilliant (for late autumn) weather ever since they finally left) the grass was lush and green and thick.  And occasionally muddy in places, much to the detriment of our hems.

The park and the light revealed distinct differences in my and Theresa’s modeling and photography styles.  She skipped  across the lawn, hoops bouncing with every step, and sauntered towards me, chin up, grinning, while I snapped vivid-coloured, close up glamour shots:

1850s raspberry swirl ball dress thedreamstress.com


1850s raspberry swirl ball dress thedreamstress.com

1850s raspberry swirl ball dress thedreamstress.com


I, on the other hand, wandered around the lawn, face averted, or eyes turned down, pensively wistful, while Theresa captured gloomy, atmospheric, emotional, long-range images.

The 1860s Greek Key afternoon dress thedreamstress.com

The 1860s Greek Key afternoon dress thedreamstress.com



The 1860s Greek Key afternoon dress thedreamstress.com

The 1860s Greek Key afternoon dress thedreamstress.com


She called  the  images of me ‘very Brontë sisters’, and her’s are very ‘Gone with the Wind!’

In poor light, the gloomy, atmospheric shots were more effective, (and my outfit made more sense on the lawn!) but there was one major problem with the location.  Here is Theresa photographing me:

1850s raspberry swirl ball dress thedreamstress.com


And here is the photograph she got:

The 1860s Greek Key afternoon dress thedreamstress.com


Yep.  The best tree arrangements in the park are right next to the major road going from Wellington airport into the city centre.  We were quite exposed to the curious gaze of passing motorists.  There was a great deal of tooting.

It was fun in some ways (here is Theresa waving to her audience), but I’m afraid my inner Fanny Price rather shrank from the notice of the public.

1850s raspberry swirl ball dress thedreamstress.com


And we did attract the notice of the public: one car of dissolute young men took the opportunity presented by speed and anonymity to yell derogatory  insults of the specifically aimed at women variety at us (stay classy Wellington).  This was balanced by the delight we brought to small children when rush hour kicked in, and they got to plaster their faces against the car windows in and watch us rapt joy while the cars crawled past the park.  The former  was a sad inditement on society, but the latter  more than made up for it!

1850s & 60s dresses thedreamstress.com


1850s & 60s dresses thedreamstress.com




  1. Haha, the trouble of finding a good place to take pictures! You did a great job with what you had though. I can totally relate to shying away from the camera: I really don’t like taking pictures, but as I like *having* them there’s not much of a choise… 😛

    On another note: I realize I need a late 1850’s dress so I can wear a hoop. No idea what I’ll use it for though.

    • Thank you! A late 1850s dress is a joy to have, because a proper hoopskirt makes everyone happy! If nothing else, it can spend a lot of time being a fancy tent for your littlies!

  2. It’s like our awesome medieval red stone town walls being right next to the two supermarkets.
    But at least you gave the children something to admire! And gave us something to admire. 😀 I love that photo of Theresa sitting down. And those atmospheric shots.

  3. The dresses are very beautiful. Your photos are very Brontë sisters indeed. That picture where you walk across the wide open lawn with the clouds in the sky reminds me a lot of Keele University (UK) where I studied. I’d love to see this park with blooming trees…at Keele, the campus was covered with huge rhododendron trees (trees, not just bushes – as high as the trees in your pics) so every May, the campus looks very un-British. 😉
    I can totally relate to you not liking to be so exposed to the gaze of passers-by. I love taking photos in our nearby forest because I am more comfortable posing for photos when no one’s looking. I don’t think I’ll ever get truly used to the modeling bit that comes with running a blog. 😉

    • Thank you! I’m glad I’m on the right track with the British look! Next December I will try very hard to do a photoshoot with pohutakawa in full bloom. I always mean to, and it never happens.

      Are rhododendrons not British? I mean, I know they don’t originate in Europe, but I still think of them as quite quintessentially English garden!

      I don’t mind posing at all – after five years of blogging I’ve gotten quite used to it! But it is a bit nerve wracking to be somewhere with so many random people going by. Even in a garden with lots of visitors it is different, as they expect brides and other photoshoots to be happening.

  4. Lynne says

    Let’s hear it for the children! And to you two, for bringing wonder to a mundane journey!

  5. Can’t wait till I’ve finished my dress, not sure where I’ll do my photoshoot or when, but I’m going to wear it for the school drop off. Hoping to get started on it again very soon, the new craft room is almost finished.

  6. Ooo – I know that park! I used to pass near by it every week when I lived in Newtown.
    I’ve always wondered what it is people are shouting at me from their cars – they’re invariably unintelligible, tempting me to shout ‘Enunciate!’ at their retreating exhaust.

    • It’s kinda the park that everyone in Wellington knows, as it’s impossible not to pass by it if you go through the Mount Vic tunnel!

  7. I had SO much fun modelling and photographing you — as always. I think we make a great team.

    And I must say the atmospheric shots on my camera make for some amazing atmosphere. You would think you’re in the 1850s, wandering a moor…

    I just bought a fancy new camera off a friend, so next time the photos will be even better!

  8. MJ Ruisi says

    How absolutely Lovely!!!!! Leimomi…the photos of you remind me of Millias paintings..especialy the one over water with the ribbons a flight…..the garments are beautiful…thanks for sharing…..

  9. One again you two look lovely and the dresses are amazing. I really love that 2nd photo of Theresa where she is sitting down. Also those guys who yelled insults are a-holes, that’s no way to treat a women.

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