Who could even begin to imagine a highly successful high country New Zealand farmer exploring his feminine side collecting frocks? Eden Hore was a visionary who established a trailblazing collection representing a unique slice of New Zealand couture fashion which cannot be found anywhere else in the country – and possibly the world.

The Eden Hore collection began when this successful farmer became interested in his housekeeper’s gowns. He began accompanying her to many fashion parades where he became captivated by the female clothing designs of the 70s and early 80s. As a farmer his initial interest was in wool and leather garments but Eden’s growing collection of glamorous female clothing created what is now considered an important collection from a time when New Zealand traditionally looked to Paris and London as leaders in the world of fashion.


I can remember on one of my early filming trips to Central Otago visiting the strangest farm I have ever been to. Apart from the lamas roaming about, there was also a strangely placed fountain and thousands of flowering plants in the paddocks that surrounded a homestead. An odd collection of vehicles scattered around the farm only added to the uniqueness of his property. But that was nothing compared to what my colleagues and I were shown inside the house.

Eden greeted us with firm handshakes then invited us in for a coffee as we had driven from Dunedin and needed a break. He told us he came from a long line of Central Otago high country farmers and although a successful sheep and cattle farmer, financially secure from the astute business deals he had made, his interests extended far beyond the traditional ones expected from a man with his background. Eden had also made numerous overseas trips and this helped develop his somewhat fertile imagination. From the stories he told us, he clearly liked to party in the company of interesting women – beauty queens, designers, entertainers and larger than life characters. Apart from dress collecting, he also had time to breed Tibetan yaks and pedigree miniature horses. We smiled at each other when he admitted to taking a docile young Himalayan tahr for bike rides around the farm!! (These goat-like animals grow to weigh 35kg so even a young one must have been a handful to say the least, especially holding it while riding a motorbike.)


After the coffee break, we were taken to a former tractor shed which he now called the Glenshee Fashion Museum. We were confronted with rows and rows of glamourous dresses and accessories that hung in racks on both sides of the shed. The walls were covered in photos of female models and beauty queens. He pulled out some of his favourite frocks for me to film. He had a story to go with each one which made the whole experience memorable and informative. His joy in his clothing collection was obvious as he showed us one dress after another. He even offered to wear one but then changed his mind. He admitted he was not into drag. However, he did call on a female neighbour who happily popped in and modelled a couple of the dresses. He made sure the right accessories were also worn so each dress looked its best for the camera.

Eden Hore’s complete haute couture collection amounted to 276 pieces which he purchased during the 1970s and early 80s. He even had a replica of Princess Anne’s wedding dress. It is the largest private collection of 70s female clothing in the Southern Hemisphere. Popular culture of the time focused on hippies with floral shirts and brightly coloured bell bottom trousers but this gaudy clothing didn’t appeal to him. He was only attracted to the avant-garde styles of that time. He went after flamboyant evening gowns. He loved capes trimmed with ostrich feathers or embroidered with sequins. Figure hugging leather and chiffon creations are also prominent in his collection. He had a particular interest in New Zealand fashion designers and snapped up their creations to add to his collection.

Eden Hore Dresses (odt.co.nz)


Eden Hore loved Central Otago and did what he could to develop a local tourism industry. One of his stunts to attract publicity was booking a train to transport some of his cattle to Dunedin. He also loved to entertain and the garden parties he held on his Nasby farm were legendary. He would bring in models and beauty queens to model dresses from his collection and even fly in top entertainers of the day. He hired the best chefs to create the meals served outdoor with his floodlit art deco tiered fountain as a major feature of the dining area. To be invited to one of these events was an honour and invitations were sought after and highly prized.

When Eden died in 1997 at the age of 78, family members took over the farm. When they sold it in 2013, the Central Otago District Council bought the clothing collection for $40.000. They created a temperature-controlled display area at the Central Stories Museum in Alexandra where a revolving selection of Eden’s dresses can be seen.


The most striking garments from the Eden Hore Central Otago Collection, along with images of Eden working on the farm, are currently on display at the Dowse Art Museum in Lower Hutt (Wellington) It is the first time a dedicated Eden Hore display has been held outside Otago. As interest in his flamboyant collection grows, it seems very likely people in other parts of New Zealand will be able to see the costumes that appealed to this unusual Nasby farmer half a century ago. His collection of dresses is now recognized as an important time capsule of the latter part of 20th Century NZ female fashion.

Ceidrik Heward

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