The exhibition was of fashions displayed in the quirky Australian film, The Dressmaker, which stars Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Liam Hemsworth and Hugo Weaving.
The basic premise of the movie (it's also a novel) is that a girl returns to the drab little country town she was sent away from as a child, though her mother still lives there.
She's there to look after her aging mother and to come to terms with the mystery of why she was sent away. She's now a top class dressmaker, having studied under some of the top French couturiers. She brings 1950's haute couture to the dreary run-down backwater in remote Australia — and transforms the town.
That's enough about the plot — see the movie or read the book if you want more. In the movie the fashions starred as much as the actors, and they're what drew me down to the grand old farm homestead at Barwon Park, built in the Victorian era, when the country grew rich and fat on wool and dairy. It's built of bluestone (locally quarried volcanic stone) and definitely had an eye to grandeur, as it sits looking out across flat volcanic plains.
The sign out the front, Dungatar, is a little joke — that's the name of the drab and run-down little town in the movie, and bears no resemblance to the slightly grand and elegant Barwon Park.
But back to the fashions. Marion Boyce was the costume designer — you might already know her work — she also designed the gorgeous clothes in the Miss Fisher's Murder Mystery TV series.
To start with there were the hats. (Click on any of the photos for a bigger view)
Are you a hat person? I adore them, but I almost never wear them, unless they're part of a costume. I will occasionally don one to keep off the sun, rain or cold, but almost never for the sake of fashion. These elegant little wisps wouldn't keep off a snowflake, but aren't they gorgeous?
Then there were the dresses. There were all kinds of dresses — day wear, evening wear, all stunningly elegant and some beautifully, wildly over-the-top, providing a great contrast to the dry dusty, drab setting of the Wimmera (the setting of the movie– a drought-plagued area bordering the desert.)I loved this elegant little black suit.
As well as being gorgeous to look at, the dresses also sparked memories. The exhibition was pretty busy for something held out in the sticks, a two hour drive from Melbourne. When I was there, the majority of visitors were female, and quite a few were older women who remembered wearing dresses like these, and some their mothers wore.
The snatches of reminiscences I heard . . . Regrets that Aunty Mabel's hats all went to the op-shop (charity shop) when she died, the hats their mothers used to wear to church, memories of the dresses they wore to this dance or that, and "Oh, remember these?" of some fabulous item of clothing no longer seen in daily life. And corsets! And bras that were practically satin-covered armor.
Mothers and daughters and granddaughters oohed and ahhed over dresses, and the wedding dress (the good and the bad one) were much discussed. I even heard a conversation debating Princess Diana's wedding dress.
In one room there was a short movie about the making of the costumes, and a description of the permanent-pleating process of the black dress with the white angel-wing-style sleeves or draperies. (above left) And the before and after shot of the fabulous Cinderella scene, where drab and downtrodden shop assistant Gertrude becomes glamorous belle-of-the-ball.
As for me, I spotted all kinds of things I found so charming. This little jacket, for instance.
And some of those hats. The 1950's isn't my favorite era for fashion, but I have to say, these were a whole heap of fun — and gorgeousness.
As for you, do any of these fashions grab you? Spark a memory or two? Are you a wearer of hats or not? And what's your favorite era for fashion?