Treatment of a Samoan titi 

Samoan titi (dance skirt)

Nikki Chard, a British student studying for her MPhil in Textile Conservation at the University of Glasgow, undertook a summer internship in the Textile Conservation Lab in 2011. Nikki was particularly interested in widening her knowledge and skills by working with textiles that are different both in materials and cultural origin to those she had worked with in Britain. 

Nikki spent most of her time carrying out the challenging work of stabilising the applique work on a Samoan dance skirt, known as a titi.

The titi dates from about 1920, and was made to commemorate the visit of Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII and Duke of Windsor) to Samoa. The titi was displayed in Te Papa’s Oceania: Encounters  exhibition (6 August – 6 November 2011).  For the exhibition, the skirt needed to be displayed on a body form, to show how the garment would have been worn. But the skirt’s waistband, made from finely woven woollen cloth, was in poor condition due to insect damage, and the fabric was also faded and brittle due to light exposure. 

Nikki created custom-dyed woollen patches to support the damaged areas of the waistband. She placed a protective layer of nylon net over the top of the waistband and stitched  the layers together.  Finally, after much painstaking work, she attached a Velcro backing to the reverse side of the waistband to fix the skirt to its display form.