Regent’s exhibition showcasing Middle Eastern clothing and artefacts

A special celebration of clothing and culture will be launched with a private viewing of the ‘Marguerite J. Dennis Costume Collection’ at Regent’s University London on Thursday 3 October from 16:30-18:30.

The exhibition will be open to the public in the University’s Knapp Gallery from Friday 4 October to Saturday 9 November 2019, and will showcase a collection of Middle Eastern clothing and artefacts.

The items have all been personally collected and donated by Regent’s Trustee, Marguerite J. Dennis, to support teaching and learning in areas including Fashion Design and Art History. 

In 2017, Regent’s University London Trustee Marguerite J. Dennis donated a collection of clothes, jewellery and other artefacts which she had collected during her travels to the University.  Marguerite has served as a higher education administrator for more than 30 years, first at St. John’s University in New York, then at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. and finally at Suffolk University in Boston.

Discussing the inspiration and stories behind the collection, Marguerite said: 'I don’t remember when I first became a wanderer, when the stale smell of airport terminals became more familiar to me than the smell of freshly baked bread or just-picked flowers. I do know for a quarter century I travelled and worked in the Middle East; in Kuwait, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain.

'I was a Vice President for Suffolk University in Boston responsible for recruiting students, signing student and faculty exchange programs and finalising articulation agreements. I worked wearing an abaya, the traditional plain black robe worn by Muslim women. I shopped in souks all over the Middle East and still have bottles of oils and perfumes from the region.

'During these years I had the privilege of meeting hundreds of families. Most of the clothing you see here today were gifted to me by these generous people. To me, and I hope to you, this exhibition represents more than fabric. Behind each item is a person and behind each person is a story. 

'The stories may vary from person to person and from country to country but the overriding theme of shared humanity is the same. That is one of the greatest lessons I learned from all of the travelling I did: people all over the world are basically the same.'

Julia Weiner, Senior Lecturer in Art History and Curator of the Marguerite J. Dennis Collection, added: 'Since our Trustee Marguerite J. Dennis so generously donated her collection of dresses and artefacts gathered during her travels to Regent's University, London, we have used them in a number of ways to stimulate our students.

'They have been used in drawing, fashion and creative writing classes, as inspiration for the local community in our outreach workshops and we will soon be using them for language learning too.  This exhibition will allow staff, students and the wider public to view and learn more about a significant part of the collection.'

The 'Marguerite J Dennis Costume Collection' will be on display in Regent's Knapp Gallery from Friday 4 October to Saturday 9 November 2019. External visitors can view the collection by emailing Rebecca Cox on [email protected].