Surly Queen Suit (Material Memory)

Donated By: Holly Searle

Fascinated by the Pearly Kings and Queens culture in London and with her heritage connected to the east of the city, Holly set about finding a suit to pay homage to this by sewing mother of pearl button motifs that represented her life. Some of the buttons were donated by friends, some of whom had lost their mothers and shared buttons from their mothers’ collections.

 Whilst the suit is not related to her history, the pearl button motifs and symbolism are full of emotive connections. 

Created in the aftermath of her breast cancer diagnosis, Holly was seeking to create a memory of herself. “I was made in Soho as my parents lived there for a few years prior to my arrival. Our family was pure chaos and anarchic at the best of times, so I was a daughter of this. I was also a daughter of social change with regards to feminism. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I am a mother and an artist. Breasts are represented on the front of the jacket, a memory of how they were before my cancer. It’s one of my most precious pieces and I love wearing it. The weight of the buttons really adds to its wearable presence and stature, I can’t forget I am wearing it when I am.

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