The Maharaja’s New Clothes

The Maharaja’s New Clothes is a project to recreate the clothing of Maharaja Churachand Singh and his Maharani Dhanamanjuri for an exhibition at Alford Manor House Museum in Lincolnshire. Details of the full exhibition can be found here: about Higgins’ India

spinningThe Story behind the project

Recent research into the life of John Higgins in Manipur has revealed the close connections his family developed with the Manipuri Royal family. The children played together and the Maharani frequently called on Mrs Higgins. Similarly Higgins’ discussions with the Raja included family plans and the Higgins family attended at least one Royal family wedding. The Higgins were completely immersed in a very different world, a world which did not stop at the doors of the British Residency but filled their lives.

Inspired by  a black and white photograph of the Royal couple we set out to discover the true colours of the beautifully woven and embroidered clothes of the Royal family.

A speculative email for advice to the Dress and Textile Specialist (DATS) Network produced a good response, in particular Toolika Gupta was very keen to help us investigate the details of the Royal Clothing of the period. Toolika then introduced Richana Khumanthem to the project, the results have been amazing.

The traditional processes of spinning, weaving and dyeing used in the creation of the Royal clothing have been carefully documented. Leading experts have been interviewed to establish the original colours of the attire.

As research into the Queen’s attire was completed a donation to the project enabled work on the creation of this garment to commence. In July 2016, weaving began on the authentic recreation of the Queen’s Thambal Leikhok phanek.

We have now completed the above clothing project. The items created and the accompanying photographs of the artisans at work will be on display at Alford Manor House Museum from May 2017.

Alford Manor House Museum is indebted to those below for their help, advice and hours of work on this project:

Toolika Gupta  :Fashion & textile expert: Ambassador of the Costume Soc. UK 2016-17  Founding member and Secretary of TCRC Textile and Clothing Research Centre, India

Guest lecturer at NIFT, NID, Delhi University and Pearl in India                                                       (Indian Surface Design, History of Indian Textiles / World Textiles, Indian and Western Fashion).

Richana Khumanthem : Designer: Owner/Founder and Creative Director at Khumanthem