200 Years of Australian Fashion @ Saturday, August 20, 2016

Thursday 28th July

Since settlement, Australian fashion has been shaped by geographic, seasonal and cultural variants, and defined by colloquial vernacular. In every era, Australian designers have consciously defined the character of how we dress according to local terms of reference. 

From the early dressmaking establishments of Brisbane to the mid-century salons of Collins Street (hence known as the Paris End), to the contemporary studios by Bondi’s beaches, 200 Years of Australian Fashion traverses over two centuries of fashion design in Australia.

Staged across four large galleries (four different eras), the exhibition celebrates Australia’s unique voice and impact on the fashion industry internationally, showcasing the work of contemporary designers such as Dion Lee, Ellery, Romance Was Born and Toni Maticevski alongside key designs from the past 200 years, including exquisite examples of historic design.

Open 9-5pm March to July, it only took us five months to get there :P But we made it! During the last week. We were keen to go, but then we weren't, but then we were. The thing is I don't love fashion, not modern fashion anyway. My specializations in historic fashion come to a halt at the onset of WWI/the end of the Edwardian Era, the last era of elegance, till the 50s came around. But from then it went to the hippie/free love movement, disco, grunge, 90s and now contemporary favouring cut outs, neon colours and with an occasional retro comeback. 

The gallery itself is divided into different eras/rooms: 
  • Status 1805-1900    
  • Glamour 1920s – 1960s
  • Independence 1970s – 1990s 
  • Contemporary 2000s – Now  

c. 1805 Evening Dress
Made of cotton muslin soured from India, this is the earliest known surviving dress thought to be made in Australia. Empire style, with gold (gold gold?) embroidery thread it reflects the status of its wearer, the NSW governor's wife. In the newly established society of Sydney, it was important for those in positions of power to demonstrate their authority through fashionable dress.

This dress and most of the clothing are tiny. Now and then. Now because of the media's perceptions of beauty. Back then because nutritional information wasn't available and as researched and widely known as it is today. Also people didn't consume as much junk food and there was a lot of natural and organic foods, and diets in a way were healthier. 

Australia was colonized by the English, during the Victorian era, and so the first gallery is all about Status (1805-1900). What you wore said who you were to the world and more importantly society. No lady would leave the house with a hat back then! Oh how we wished it were so today.  

Hats and headpieces throughout the ages. I see Prince Phillip's hat! On the far left there's a book headpiece! The lighting wasn't great so we didn't manage to get a clear shot, but it's a thick velvet book with all those groves and textures for the side of the book. More pics here.

Status 1805-1900. Think 'The Paradise', 'Pride & Prejudice' & Jane Austen. Also Sherlock. Think bustles, beading, hoops, padding and corsets. All the details. Also Lady Grantham, that burnt 70s orange dress is so her. Note that that dress is actually wine/burgundy though, bad lighting sorry. 

Glamour 1920-1960s

Moving into the 1920s, post WWI we see loose waists, morals, Gatsby and the emerging flapper girl. Fast forward and we have 50s glamour, red lipstick, Marilyn Monroe, swing dresses, Hairspray! (one of our favourite musicals), curves are in! Beading, tulle, satin and feathers are in! We love those swinging dresses!

Backtracking a little, Lillian Whiteman opened her salon Le Louvre in 1922 on Collins Street in Melbourne, which she named “The Paris End” and it epitomised the luxury, elegance and opulence of fashion. The name has stuck ever since!

Independence 1970s-1990s saw bright colours, crazy designs. The hippies, disco, grunge and umm.. unique designs. Starting with the rebellious mini dress worn without stockings at the races! "Our next major moment in Australian Fashion is 1965 on Derby Day when Jean Shrimpton wore a mini dress which shocked the nation". 

In 1996 Australian fashion week starts in Sydney and Melbourne Fashion Festival launches.

Contemporary 2000s - Now. Was the final gallery. Featuring bright patterns, use of texture, sequins and things that shock to the urban jungle look with city living basics but with one feature/element accentuated, like the colours, shape and design.

Lastly we have Dion Lee's Aperture, a sculpture of light with crystals. A dress for a parade I'd think, due to the height. But how would you keep it lit up? This paired with a disco ball would be amazing!

An exhibition on '200 Years of Australian Fashion' found us at the gallery under Fed Square, from the 1850s till today. Oh how elegance has fallen! Being a fan of history I loved the earlier collections, but no so much the later.

What were your thoughts on the gallery? Which era is your favourite?

Post a Comment

Previous Posts ~ More Recent Posts