It is a Perth truth universally acknowledged that every time you drive or ride down Mounts Bay Road, you must see what outfit Eliza is wearing today.
Will she be in a fancy cocktail dress? Will she be wearing the scarf of a local footy team? Will she have been squeezed into a private school blazer? Or (gasp) will she be au natural in her in her natural (bronze) bathing suit.
Eliza wearing t-shirt by Moondyne - Own work, Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons
Sculpted by local artist Tony Jones and unveiled in 2007, at 2.2 metres tall Eliza stands well above the height of the average women. Her majestic bulk makes her eclectic wardrobe even more astonishing – given that there is a prankster or pranksters - who manage to find so many outfits to fit her, and stretch over her magnificent outstretched arms.
An article on the ABC in 2010 quotes the sculptor as saying he was appalled the first time he saw Eliza dressed up, but he has since come around. "As long as the dressing up doesn't stay there for weeks and weeks. I think that's important, and the other thing is that it's not vandalised or damaged and that doesn't seem to happen," he said to journalist Clair Nichols.
Over the years I have seen Eliza in outfits ranging from full cocktail gowns, football colours, school uniforms, Santa outfits, jockey outfits, scary Halloween costumes, flags, wedding dresses and modern day bathing costumes. Once she had a bike strapped to her, another time a surfboard.
Sometimes the outfits stay a few days, sometimes they are gone overnight. Apparently the City of Perth keep a close eye and quickly remove anything too inappropriate.
I have always wondered who dresses Eliza. Situated fifteen metres off shore, any would-be stylist would require a boat or at least be a confident swimmer with a keen sense of adventure.
"Eliza, Matilda Bay, July 2011-Moondyne by User:Moondyne - Own work, Wikipedia. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons
There is no parking anywhere near by on Mounts Bay Road, so you wouldn't be able to stop the car and jump out to do a quick makeover. There is also an almost constant flow of traffic, meaning you would have to be a very surreptitious stylist.
It is generally assumed that the pranksters tend to be local school and university students, and as far as I can tell, no one has come publicly forward to claim responsibility for an outfit or two. It could be many hundreds of people, using Eliza as a way of celebrating major events (Melbourne Cup, Christmas) and personal milestones (weddings and birthdays).
Often Eliza's outfit is merely a sign wishing someone good luck or a happy birthday or protesting about a timely political issue.
What is your favourite outfit of Eliza? Do you know anything about the people who style her in the night?
I have often seen students in kayaks and boats changing Eliza. I love it. I used to work at UWA and it was always interesting to see her in the morning. It is a delicate task, especially as it means climbing onto her podium to reach her. There has been marriage proposals which is very sweet and unique.
I have only once seen anyone dressing Eliza. A young lady had swum from a small boat, where her two friends were laughing and encouraging her. She was laughing so hard that she had trouble climbing up (it looked pretty difficult even if you weren't laughing). She took off her own bikini top and put it on Eliza. I don't think she was a regular contributor to Eliza's wardrobe because she seemed to come unprepared, but it made me laugh all day thinking of her escapade and I had always wondered who went to the effort of dressing the statue.