That’s the challenge that Bristol poet and artist Hazel Hammond set herself when she was asked to help catalogue the clothing of this little-known fashionista from Brighton.
Marietta was 90 when she died in 2016. She left behind her partner of many decades, John, and a wardrobe full of clothes. Using a mixture of poetry, photos, moving images and shadows, as well as Marietta’s clothing Hazel brings the mysterious Marietta, of the snakeskin handbags, the lacy negligees and the cruise labelled trunk with spaces for six pairs of shoes to life for one week only in March 2018.
Hazel said: “I knew that Marietta came from a fairly wealthy family in Holland, and in 1947 came to London, where she settled leaving her work as an actor. She left behind a collection of what is now vintage clothing, clothing dating as far back as the mid-1960s to the present day. Some of it is dressmaker made, and some of it is semi-couture (Susan Small) and some of it is mid-range High Street (Wallis), and some from Dutch manufacturers..
“Cataloguing the clothes was quite difficult and very delicate because I didn’t know John and he didn’t know what he wanted to do with the clothes and I had to reassure him that I knew how to take care of them and would be respectful of them. I had to keep my own excitement in check, so it took much longer than it should have done.
“Handling her clothes gave me the inspiration to see if I could find her essence in poetry and photographs, and sometimes I felt like I got a glimpse of her. But what I did discover, as many of us who have lost loved ones before me, is that Marietta is not her clothes.”
But when people come to the exhibition, entitled Marietta’s Wardrobe, will they find Marietta?
“I expect they will get a peep, but not the full picture,” says Hazel.