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200 Years of Australian Fashion Exhibition

Home > Melbourne > Cultural Events | Exhibitions | Fashion | Festivals | Vintage and Retro
by Gayle Beveridge (subscribe)
Gayle is a retired accountant and a photography enthusiast living on Victoria's beautiful Bass Coast. Gayle is passionate about writing and keen to showcase Aussie culture to a global audience. Gayle loves her family, dogs, sunsets, and chocolate.
Event: -
Two Centuries of Aussie Couture
When we think Australian history we think of Captain Cook, Burke and Wills, and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The history of Australian fashion has long been neglected, an omission that is about to be corrected. Between March and July of 2016 the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) is hosting '200 Years of Australian Fashion', the first major survey of Australian fashion ever conducted in this country.

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Fashionable Ladies in NSW c. 1909 (Photo By State Library of New South Wales from Australia, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

The exhibition, which will be held in four galleries in the Ian Potter Centre at Federation Square will feature more than 120 works from at least 90 designers. The NGV, tells us that, 'In every era, Australian designers have consciously defined the character of how we dress according to local terms of reference. Even today, Australian style can be understood as the by-product of independence and impertinence.' Indeed, independence and impertinence epitomise the Aussie character and it is only fitting this translates to our fashion.

The oldest known Australian dress, thought to have been made in 1805 will be on display.

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Desgins by Akira at the 2012 Mercedes Benz Fashio Week (Photo by Eva Rinaldi CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

An exquisite blue-feathered 1950's ball gown from the Collins Street boutique La Petite, is the stuff of little girl's dreams and is displayed in all its glory.

There will be a catwalk show honouring the Fashion Design Council, which was established in 1983 to foster Australian fashion design.

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1950's fashion display in a shop window at Hillston, NSW (Photo by Gayle Beveridge)

In 2005 Australia Post issued a set of commemorative stamps honouring Australia's great designers, Jenny Bannister, Collette Dinnigan, Akira Isogawa, Joe Saba, Carla Zampatti and Prue Acton. All are household names today and all will be represented at the exhibition. Collette Dinnigan was the first Australian invited to show on-schedule at the Paris Fashion week. A dress from her famous 1995 Paris runway show will be on display. Prue Acton was the first female designer to show in New York. A selection of her mini-dresses form part of the exhibition.

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Woman modelling swimwear, 1954 (Photo By Australian National Maritime Museum on The Commons, No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons)

Other designers represented include Richard Nylon, Ellery, Toni Maticevski, Jenny Kee, MaterialByProduct, Romance Was Born, Di$count Universe, Pageant, PAM, Alpha60, Karla Spetic, Lui Hon and Strateas Carlucci. A new work by Dion Lee has been commissioned for the event.

But it's not just about the designers; Australia's first department stores played an important part in bringing fashion to the people and Buckley & Nunn, David Jones, Farmer and Co. and Bright & Hitchcock's are featured in the exhibition.

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Dresses by Dion Lee in 2013 (Photoby Eva Rinaldi CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Along with the garments themselves, the exhibition includes talks with curators, designers, practitioners and academics, some designer-led workshops, behind the scenes Fashion Collection Sessions, multi-media footage and interviews, photographs and works on paper. An exquisite illustrated catalogue is available.

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Wedding Fashions, c. 1930s (Photo by Sam Hood from State Library of New South Wales collection, No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons)

The exhibition is part of the Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival, now in its 20th year. Garments for the exhibition have been drawn from a number of public and private collections and are unlikely to be gathered together again any time soon. The exhibition runs from 5th March to 31st July 2016 at The Ian Potter Centre, National Gallery of Victoria, Ground Floor, Federation Square, Corner of Flinders and Russell Streets, Melbourne and will be open daily from 10am to 5pm. More information can be found in the NGV website or by telephoning 03 8620 2222. Check here for ticket releases.
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Why? Because history isn’t always this pretty
When: 10am to 5pm Daily, 5th March 2016 to 31st July 2016
Phone: 03 8620 2222
Where: The Ian Potter Centre, National Gallery of Victoria, Ground Floor, Federation Square, Corner of Flinders and Russell Streets, Melbourne, 3000
Cost: NGV Member Adult $11.00, Adult $15.00, Concession $12.00, Child (5–15 years) $7.00, NGV Member Family (2 adults 3 children) $32.00, Family (2 adults 3 children) $41.00
Your Comment
I'm looking forward to this, especially to seeing the 1800's stuff. I always wonder how those ladies managed in our heat with such heavy clothes as they had to wear.
by betty (score: 2|520) 1388 days ago
I always find it interesting looking at historical clothes, which is strange because I'm really into fashion.
by Bryony Harrison (score: 4|12481) 1388 days ago
Sounds fascinating. Shame it is not touring Australia.
by Jenny Rossiter (score: 3|4116) 1388 days ago
That sounds good I must try and get there.
by Nadine Cresswell-Myatt (score: 3|5703) 1386 days ago
This should be a great exhibition for the ladies.
by Roger (score: 2|635) 1388 days ago
Loved this article. Wish I had seen it earlier. I agree should tour.
by Tricia Ziemer (score: 2|548) 1355 days ago
Great info Gayle- any excuse to go to cross the border is a good one- but this is a must see- will gather some mates and brave the Melbun winter when I am free and definitely go.
by Kat May (score: 3|1392) 1386 days ago
Hi Gayle,
Will have to investigate when I am in Melbourne.
Even though fashion is not really my thing.
Thanks for the pix and info.
Cheers, Jenny
by Jenny Esots (score: 3|1251) 1387 days ago
Impressive!!
by Diana (score: 2|710) 1387 days ago
I went with my Mum and teenage daughter. We all enjoyed it but not as many dresses as we anticipated, especially in the 50s era. We had to remind ourselves this was only Australian fashion not the world. Bring your reading glasses as the info boards are small and low down. Loved the music.
by janet (score: 0|7) 1321 days ago
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