Ilona Nelson


When my mum and aunty were young they were given a shoebox of dolls dresses every Christmas which were made by friends of my grandpa: Mrs. Collier and Mrs. Burrows.  They made the dresses of material off-cuts from clothes they had made for themselves.  The dresses were made to fit everyone's dolls; my mum thinks great-aunty Ivey secretly recorded the measurements and gave them to Mrs. Collier and Mrs. Burrows to make patterns from.  This tradition was reignited once my sister and I had our own dolls, and the dresses featured in my ‘a shoebox full of dresses’ series are from three generations of dolls.

After having babies my mum and I were sorting through the things she'd kept all these years, deciding what we should keep and pass onto my boys.  When I saw the dresses I knew I just had to document them to ensure their stories were not lost and forgotten.  Since having children I feel an urgency to capture memories and document ones from the past for our family's future generations.

I photographed the dresses as I found them: complete with wrinkles, stains and traces of writing.  I like that you can see the lives they have lead as the dresses hold so much history within their stitches.  I believe everyone will find their own stories and meanings within them.