A costume conservator (Marion Parker) looking down and wearing magnifying goggles and blue overalls examines a piece of fabric
A costume conservator (Marion Parker) looking down and wearing magnifying goggles and blue overalls examines a piece of fabric
Stories & Ideas

Thu 25 Feb 2021

Marion Parker conserves costumes for ACMI

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Your museum of screen culture

Costumes are made to pop on camera, but they aren't made to last.

In our new exhibition, The Story of the Moving Image, we explore the art of costume design and the role that costumes play in storytelling. Costume conservator Marion Parker helps costumes last longer so that we can have them on display to help tell our story of the moving image.


I like to see how things are made and what they're made from and I like to see the underneath of things.

My name is Marion Parker and I'm a textiles conservator. I'm working on The Last Emperor costumes at the moment, and so I'm just helping stabilise them for a display at ACMI.

As a conservator I'm more involved with the longevity of the object and the material stability of the object. They were made by the film industry. They weren't made to last. Things like the shoulder pads; they're made to look like they're bronze but they're not bronze. This is screen printed; it's not embroidered. If you have a look at the surface it's actually got quite a plasticky sort of feel and appearance. In the film you'd never see that, you wouldn't see the detail.

The colourful nature of them is part of the point of the display, the animated nature of them. So I'm trying to introduce a bit of animation into the underpinnings, so to try and imagine that there's a body under there, moving. Getting the shape right, that's a lot of it, is to try and get the silhouette correct because these have been folded in boxes for a number of years.

So I work with the curators about what kind of stories they want to tell and what level of damage they would like to see, if it's part of the history of the object. The imperial guard costume: he kept splitting his trousers from leaping and you see all these splits because he had a really active part.

People wore stuff and and broke it and sat on it and ate their lunch in it and I actually think that's probably what you want to see. If you take that out of the story then you've lost a bit haven't you?

Step into the ACMI wardrobe

See Marion Parker's work in our new centrepiece exhibition