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Preparing an Inuit woman's winter costume for display

Side and front view of a hooded fur suit on a display stand

This costume comes from the Baffin Island area in the Nunavut Territory, Northern Canada. It was collected in the early 20th century. It would have belonged to a woman. It is on display in the Americas galleries at World Museum.

The costume consists of the parka, short trousers, a pair of leggings (or knee pads) and a pair of boots. It is made of caribou and seal fur and has fur on the inside as well as the outside. This double layer of fur would create a layer of insulating air and keep the wearer warm.

How we displayed this costume

To display this costume, conservators built a special mount with no hands or head. This shows how the costume was worn without having a figure inside.

The mount was made by the organics conservation department in collaboration with the technical services department. Technical services made the rigid interior frame, while the organics conservators made the soft pads.

composite of 3 imges showing the basic framework of a torso on metal legs, then the framework with added padding and finally the Inuit suit on display

Building up the special mount for the Inuit woman's costume

The mount has several special features:

  • The top half of the body can be taken off so that the boots, leggings and trousers can be put on first. It is also adjustable in height.
  • Usually the mannequins that are used to display clothes in shop displays are supported on steel rods that go through the soles of the shoes. This could not be done with these boots. Instead, angled rods went from knee level into the ground behind the boots.
  • There is no means for fastening the leggings. Here they are held in position by drums of foam pressing against the interior of the leggings. The friction between the fur and the foam keeps them from slipping down.
  • The hood is held upright and open with the help of fabric-covered steel rods, so that you can see the inside of the hood.