From skilfully knitted jumpers starring cockatoos, to custom capes made from possum fur: this is Australian fashion through the ages. The National Gallery of Victoria’s 200 Years of Australian Fashion exhibition involves more than 120 works from over 90 Australian fashion designers. Presented throughout four large gallery rooms at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, it is the first retrospective of Australian fashion to be undertaken on home ground.
The exhibition highlights the significant impact of geography on design and function of Australian garments, both in terms of Australia’s isolation from the rest of the world, and the country’s diverse landscape. Colours, textures, and materials of the expertly curated garments present a collective appreciation and pride of Australian culture. Some designers, such as Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson, were known to openly pay tribute to a number of our most iconic fixtures, like Sydney Harbour Bridge or the Kimberley Desert, while the clothing they designed for their Sydney store, Flamingo Park, have become icons themselves. The pairs outrageously kitsch designs are some of the exhibition’s most visually appealing additions.
The areas of the exhibition hosting the 1960s and 1970s are pumped with music of the time. Disco balls hang from the ceiling and all around are bright patterns, jumpsuits, and corduroy. 1965 is remembered through the revolutionary mini-skirt with the most famous model of that year, Jean Shrimpton, waltzing into Flemington Race Course for Melbourne Cup with no hat, no gloves, no stockings, and (shock, horror!) a skirt 5 inches above her knee. The 1980s is a giant, neon-pink catwalk showcasing the array of Australian trends from the decade with the mannequins sporting giant hair while ‘vouging’.
Interviews and musings from designers old and new are presented alongside their creations. They speak of inheriting the industry predecessors’ resilience and expertise, and of their own wild and wonderful ideas. It is a joy to hear their enthusiastic voices, see their eyes light up while talking of sequins and yarn. But most interestingly, it is the overall development of Australian fashion that is the greatest draw of the exhibition. Even those who rarely take notice of the fashion world will be taken-in by the ruffles and prints of this enchanting journey through two centuries of Australian fashion.
200 Years of Australian Fashion
5th March 2016 – 31st July 2016
The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne.