200 Years of Australian Fashion


Image above: (left to right) Australia, Evening dress c. 1805; Flamingo Park, Wattle dress and hat 1978; House of Stripes, Silver dress 1966; Gavin Brown, Indian snakes and ladders outfit 1985; Magg, Evening outfit c. 1974; Katie Pye, The party 1980; La Petite, Evening dress c. 1960; Toni Maticevski, Dali goddess 2007; Romance Was Born, Rainbow tartan feather suit 2015; Bright & Hitchcocks, Day dress 1865–70 National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Photo: Virginia Dowzer and Bronwyn Kidd


Last Friday, Adriana from Le Blonde Fox invited me to the media opening of the NGV “200 Years of Australian Fashion” exhibition.

This amazing exhibition leads the viewer on a journey through 200 years of Australian Fashion, with extravagant designs from the 1800’s dressmakers of Sydney and Melbourne right up to the architectural delights of modern-day designers. It features the work of over 90 designers and dressmakers and brings together over 120 outfits and accessories to celebrate and highlight the key moments in Australian fashion.

The journey started with early colonial fashion from the 1800’s, just as Australia was beginning to establish itself. Fashion at this time was inspired by what they wore in Pairs and London (much like today!).

The journey then continued on to touch on the rise of the department stores (such as David Jones) in late 1800’s. These stores changed the way middle-class Men and Women could access the latest fashions from overseas.

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The Paris style Salon featured stunning evening dresses created by local designers and fashion houses. The dresses were of the latest fashion and constructed with elaborate details. A stand out feature was the ostrich feather gown designed by Neil and Pat Rogers of  La Petite, a Melbourne fashion house from the late 1950’s. The gown was worn by Australian Singer and TV star, Annette Klooger. She fell in love with the dress when visiting for one of her regular fittings.

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The 1960’s were a swinging and scandalous time in fashion. Hemlines rose and flower power was in full force. Prue Acton, who designed her fashion label at 19, experimented with new fabrics, lengths and style  – from mini to maxi, baby doll to unisex. The 60’s and 70’s brought freedom to Australian fashion lovers.

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Iconic fashion designers, Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson, recreated their “Flamingo Park” store which featured their signature knitted garments which took inspiration from Australian culture, landscape and the local fauna and flora. Their work marked the emergence of a distinctively Australian style.

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The 1980’s was an era for “Art Fashion”, designers and makers experimenting with unconventional methods and materials when designing their garments. They blurred the lines between fashion and art.

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My favourite part of the exhibition was the modern Australian designers section at the end. Designers such as Ellery, Di$count Univer$e, Dion Lee and Toni Maticevski. These designers inspire me and have cemented my love of fashion with every collection they produce.

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The stunning finale of the exhibition was the gown shaped light sculpture designed by Dion Lee encrusted with Swarovski crystals. Aperture, was commissioned by Dion Lee especially for 200 Years of Australian Fashion exhibition.

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This exhibition is a must-see for any fashion lover or anyone interested in Australian history. I definitely plan on visiting again before it ends. The whole experience absolutely took my breath away and opened my eyes to the amazing host of designers and makers – past and present – that have helped to shape Australian fashion history. I look forward to seeing what the future holds for Australian fashion.

200 Years of Australian Fashion will run 5th March to 31st July. 10 am to 5 pm daily.
NGV Australia, Ground Level


All images taken by me unless otherwise stated

Thank you to NGV for hosting the media launch


Ironic Minimalist



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