200 Years of Australian Fashion

This week I made it to ‘200 Years of Australian Fashion’ at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, having got a little tiny bit lost on the first attempt! I’m so glad I made the effort to go back though as this exhibition was absolutely brilliant, surpassed only in my book by Savage Beauty (which is pretty much unbeatable – sorry other fashion exhibitions)!

‘200 Years of Australian Fashion’ has more than 120 exhibits from 90 designers, beginning in the Victorian era. Apparently very few items survived from the earliest period of Australian fashion, but luckily, a few of them were on show here.

This is the oldest surviving dress to be made in Australia (c. 1805), with cotton muslin sourced from India. I was amazed by how tiny it was! I thought it must be for a child but it was for a rather important lady; the wife of the governor of New South Wales. In fact, all of the garments from the Victorian era were miniature – I think even a shortie like me would have been a giant in those days…

Ooh, I do enjoy a good bustle. (How cool would it have been to live in this era and get up in the morning and get dressed in something like this?! Beats boring old skinny jeans).

This silk taffeta and ostrich feather dress (c. 1959) was hanging in the workroom of Melbourne fashion company La Petite when Australian singer Annette Klooger spotted it and fell in love with it, so she bought it to wear on stage.

Sometimes, a girl’s just gotta have it!

These more glamorous, Hollywood-esque styles show how Parisian couture started to influence Australian fashion in the fifties.

Onto the sixties, when embellishment wasn’t in such high demand and less was definitely more! Australian designer Prue Acton was quoted saying “Overnight we were cutting the skirts. We were cutting two inches off, and the next week, another two and another two. By Christmas we were up to something quite disgusting”.

And here are a few of my faves from the eighties room: puff shoulder heaven! You can easily imagine George Michael throwing some shapes in the middle of this scene with a Pina Colada…

“Club Tropicana drinks are freeeeeeeeeeeee…!”

Onto something a little more subtle… This handmade dress (c. 2011) by designer Aurelio Costarella was absolutely beautiful with its intricate embroidery, layered textures and embellishment.

I loved this structural design too (c. 2015) by Maticevski, which was showcased at Australian Fashion Week…

My favourite of the contemporary looks though had to be this woollen coat dress with a slashed and plaited spine (c.2013) by Dion Lee. Pretty amazing, huh?

I was staring at it so intently (thinking ‘How did somebody work this magic? Hmmm…’) that the guard looked a little alarmed, so I tore myself away and into the gift shop, which was full of beautiful and very tempting things. However, I exercised great self-restraint and came away with just a postcard (*pats self on the back*).

‘200 Years of Australian Fashion’: a must-see if you ever find yourself on this side of the globe! Xx

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