Title / object name
Costume matMedium Summary
Pandanus and other plant fibresMaterials
Pandanus leaf, plant fibre
|Overall ||900 (Length) x 890 (Width) mm|
This is an example of a costume mat from the Marshall Islands, which is no longer made. A woman's costume consisted of two quite small square mats (usually about ninety by ninety centimetres as here), not necessarily matching. One mat was wrapped around the front of the body and the other around the back, overlapping the first, but leaving a gap in the front in which part of the first could be seen. The two mats were held in place by a girdle of some kind, often a string of shells or shell beads.
Materials and decoration techniques
Costume mats like this one are usually constructed from several pieces, neatly stitched together. This mat, like other mats from the Marshall Islands, is particularly notable for its intricate geometric patterns.
Mats in Pacific cultures
The term mat, which to most people now suggests a floor covering, has been used in the Pacific to describe anything from floor coverings to bedding to articles of dress and even currency. One of the major uses of 'mats' was as costume, where they were used as skirts, loincloths, capes, and head coverings.
This mat was purchased from a dealer in Sydney in 1911. Such purchases reflect the active development of the Dominion Museum's Pacific collection during the first two decades of the twentieth century.