Wendy in her 21st birthday dress, with her
mother and father in the dining room of their
family home and outside their front door
wearing her birthday gift of a honey coloured
Wendy in Venice in 1986
and holding the same pose in the UK
Wendy latterly wearing her Turkish waistcoat + Wendy and Andy today and Andy in the nineteen eighties
This story has already inspired a piece of work please click here:
Wendy Duggan (75) lives in New Zealand and looks after her husband Andy (77) who now has some health difficulties
Wendy's correspondence with The Talking Wardrobe began by focusing on an image of her in her 21st birthday party dress, there was also an image of a waistcoat Andy had bought her in Turkey and a photo of her at the age of 43 in white shorts in Venice. Referring to her life today Wendy wrote: “aging isn’t for the faint hearted.” Later she also wrote: "Thanks for reminding me that the key to life is just to be open to whatever as I have the feeling I will need that advice!...We have always tried to look on life’s problems (like our flood) as just another adventure!"
Wendy and Andy have travelled widely, emigration to New Zealand from Britain in 1970 was only the first of many long journeys they made together. The image of Wendy in Venice in white shorts is reflective of the fact that they often travelled very light, sometimes with just one small black bag each, taken as hand luggage. Nevertheless they’ve been many times to the Far East, to China, Malaysia and Japan as well as India and all over Europe and several items of clothing came back with them from their travels.
Of the history of the red and gold waistcoat in the images she shared Wendy wrote: “Andy bought it for me in Gallipolli, Turkey. It is beautiful, red velvet with gold embroidery and lots of little mirrors. Very 1960's Carnaby street!...We had a lovely two week holiday in Turkey about 12 yrs ago…The night we visited Gallipoli…there was a little shop in the foyer of the hotel and we started talking to the owner who was telling us that the New Zealand Prime Minister had stayed there just the previous week. Andy saw the waistcoat and bought it for me even though I thought I would never wear it but in fact I have done several times and it always gets much admired! It reminds me of that fascinating holiday…it is not old but it does have memories…”
Of her 21st birthday dress she wrote: “My shoes were gold sandals with pointy toes and ankle straps and a thin heel…not too high. The dress is white with ostrich feathers. Some years later we went to South Africa and visited an ostrich farm and I rode an ostrich as Andy pushed me off my seat when a volunteer was requested! We bought a white ostrich feather boa so since then I have worn that with my dress. The dress and boa are still in my trunk! The last time I wore them was to the Kerikeri 175th ball about 15 years ago. Not bad eh to still get into my dress?? Back to July 20 1963: It was a lovely, fun night but I don’t remember any details. It was held at my parents house and it was hot being July and I danced, with Andy if course…Also present were most of the students I trained with at Moorfields eye hospital and we had lots of parties that year as we all turned 21 except one older student from Germany. She ended up marrying a German Count and now lives in a castle. As a young refugee during the war she remembers walking for days with her doctor mother and two sisters and as the eldest child she carried the families most important possession…salt!”
This wasn't quite the last big family event before Wendy and Andy emigrated: “I met Andy in 1960 just before he went into the police. It was at a 12th night party held by me and my sister. Our parents wouldn’t go out so they had friends round and stayed in the other end of the house. We had great fun decorating the kitchen with posters from travel agents and candles in jars with red paper around them. Someone brought Andy along and said I would be sure to like him (he had just got dis-engaged)…I said, it would make up the numbers as we were short of men!...Then he walked in----------!!! By 1963 everyone (except my Mum) thought we would get engaged on my 21st birthday evening but we didn’t, until November. Back to my dress, yes I always felt good in it. Mum and I bought it in London somewhere…We had a band in the lounge…the fireplace was filled with gorgeous begonias which my Dad used to grow in his greenhouse. I suppose the next big family event was our wedding and then my sister’s wedding and then we came to NZ in 1967 for two years, back for a year then moved here.
Wendy wrote: “I have been thinking about me since your e mail and have decided that maybe I am a bit like a multi faceted kaleidoscope! There are so many "mees" which have evolved over the years…I started being quite shy at school but loved riding with Dad and riding holidays on Dartmoor, sometimes with my younger brother. I have always enjoyed water being Cancerian…so still love swimming and sailing but cannot do that now. We did have our own 32 ft yacht for a couple of years.
I went to Switzerland as an au pair when I was 17 yrs and that was the loneliest time of my life. I was with a very dour Swiss, middle aged couple of 45 yrs. Madame was vegetarian so we only had meat on Sunday which was a blood sausage. She seemed to think that I should enjoy housework!! She said if I did not enjoy it then I never would! Andy often remarks that she was right!! I did love being high up in the mountains and skiing sometimes. I also did embroidery and made a tray cloth for my Granny…which has now returned to me! I used to smock children’s clothes too.
After Switzerland I spent six months working as an under nanny at John Groom’s children’s home in Cudham. That was an experience! All children under five but I needed to learn about children for my later work as an Orthoptist checking the vision of tiny children. Then I spent over two years going up to London daily with my Dad and training at Moorfields Eye Hospital. That was very interesting and I made several very good friends…It also opened my eyes to some of the slum areas in London as we sometimes visited children in their homes! During this time I met Andy and my life changed! We got married in 1964 and went to live…near Maidstone. Then went to Dr Barbados as house parents before coming to NZ. Andy waking now so must stop….”
Strangely after all the information above had already informed and inspired the dress called: Falling free-style into the Future with the Past on my Petticoats, which incorporates a line of red thread or chord or ribbon into the design, Wendy sent these photos of herself also, all of which beatufully tie her travels and her choice of garments in with the idea of the red thread. Of the top image she wrote: "...it was an enormous red bell beside a pagoda in a lovely park. You were allowed to ring it and send a message to your loved ones and write their names on a piece of paper. I felt it was very special".