A Passion for Fashion (Walker Art Gallery Exhibition 2007)

"Our tree belongs to Dr Tinne's orchard,"
My dad said. And here I am
Browsing old clothes long dead.
Underwear and lisle, hats and
Evening wear - black; they pile
Memories like the glitter sparkling
On these outsize gowns of hers.


The coats and hats, not bought at C & A
But rather fed into the
Expensive philanthropic mind of Mrs T,
Cripps' of Bold Street, Owen Owen's, and such.
There's much to contemplate; they
Tell of an era that we'll never never see.


Our clothes today, as the ogling eyes must
Prove, are skimped, designed to appeal and
Reveal rather than subdue.
Her seven children, arranged like the
Headings around the space, define a
Wealth of opulence, despite her
Generosity and grace.


Yet I wonder as I creep about the room
Was she a mother in a million
Who could with fairness, love and kindliness
Show empathy, sympathy and praise?
Or is this looking into a shimmering
Past, a century too soon?
Past, a century too soon?

By Valerie Burgess