Helen Hopcroft had to adjust to many things over the past 12 months.
But, at least she didn’t have to spend time wondering what to wear every morning.
She dressed as Marie Antionette every day for a year, from May 2017, with the hope of raising awareness of the arts, and encouraging the establishment of a museum in Maitland.
While it was a challenge, the initial difficulty lay in moving past self-consciousness.
“It was such a ridiculous thing to do,” she said.
“The first three months were really hard but it changed every aspect of my life.
“I was kind of acclimatising to it.”
Related content: Helen Hopcroft to spend a year as Marie Antoinette
Ms Hopcroft remembers how horrified her daughter Sophie felt about it all on the first day of the project.
“She didn’t want to leave the house with me,” she said.
“The entry into the project was the hardest, and the last six weeks as well.
“Time seemed to stand still in those final weeks and it seemed like it was never going to end.”
As the year drew to a close, her costumes began to wear out and holes appeared.
After all, she had been wearing them while doing everything from painting to dropping her daughter to school, and even working on a construction site in Sydney.
Not exactly the easiest of tasks to master at the best of times, let alone in a complete 18th century outfit.
Ms Hopcroft found the attire physically constricting, but to make things slightly more manageable, allowed herself some unwritten rules.
“I did actually take the wig off when I was around Sophie – she found it just that little bit too far,” she said.
“So if I was doing the school pick up I’d take the wig off and, if I was at the gym as well.
“I wasn’t going to do anything that was going to kill me, and, if you’re working out and you’re not allowing your body to release heat, that’s going to kill you very quickly.”
Her response to the plus 45 degree days of summer was similar to that of many in Maitland.
“I just stayed home and cuddled the air conditioner,” she said.
In hindsight, she acknowledged it was an unusual idea, but had hopes of creating change.
“It’s the strangest thing I’ve ever done, but I think it’s probably the most authentic and interesting artwork I’ve ever done,” she said.
“It’s changed the way I see art and life.
“I grew up in a fairly creative family; my grandparents opened Hobart’s first commercial art gallery and my mum for a while was the director of a state art gallery.
“But I always thought of art quite conventionally in terms of ‘this is a painting and you put the painting on the wall’.
“I’m trained as a painter at the Royal College of London and even though I’d been exposed to a lot of different contemporary art and performance art, I’d never really gotten my head around the fact that creativity flows over those boundaries.
“You don’t necessarily have to make something that goes on somebody’s wall, you can make art in a whole, wide range of ways. In this particular instance I turned my body into a piece of art.”
No one would be naive enough to think her Marie stint would be her final project.
She is already looking at her next creative outlet – her house.
“I’m actually thinking of turning the house into a bit of art next; it’s one of the projects I was thinking of doing because it needs a renovation,” she said.
“I’m a bit sick of the bog standard renovation shows that you see so I’m thinking of doing something a little bit crazy with this house.”
Initially, it took her about an hour-and-a-half to transform from everyday Helen into the historic figure.
By the end of the experience, she could dress in 30 minutes – if she was rushing.
She thought it was interesting how quickly the costume became normal for her.
“After a while I would forget I was wearing it,” she said.
“Then it wasn’t until you walked into a restaurant and everyone turned to look at you, you suddenly realised you were doing something unusual.
“I remember looking behind me to see what everyone was staring at and then I realised, ‘gosh, it’s because I’m dressed like this’.
“So, it’s interesting how quickly something like that becomes normalised in your life.”
Aside from her original goal, she also noticed additional purpose in her project.
Ms Hopcroft began to see issues with modern clothing.
“I think we all get locked on a very tight cycle of clothing that we think that conforms to whatever role we’re doing,” she said.
“I ended up dressing like a hockey mum most of the time with jeans and a hoodie; when I was working in a corporate environment, I was deliberately boring, I’d be wearing dark pants and a conservative blouse all the time.
“Those sort of clothes are fine – they’re easy, they’re convenient – but they do kind of drain the life out of you.
“At the moment there is a big push for slow fashion and getting people thinking about where their clothes are coming from.
“You start to think about how the convenience of clothing coming to you is at the expense of someone else.
“Those clothes are easy to buy, easy to dispose of, and actually come with a tremendous social cost.”
For Ms Hopcroft, the most exciting part of the experiment was the opportunity to step out of the ordinary every single day.
“It was lovely wearing such beautiful, odd, strange clothing – I really enjoyed that,” she said.
“It gave me a kick and it made me smile nearly every day because even though there were days when I really didn’t want to go through with this performance, I still got the humour of it and I still loved that particular 18th century aesthetic.
“It brightened up my day.”
No doubt it brought a smile to many other faces throughout the year too.