Fashion's fabulous heritage revealed

Fashion's fabulous heritage revealed
For the very first time, fashion aficionados have the chance to experience the styles of yesteryear when the National Trust of Australia (Victoria) exhibits a rare and opulent range of historical fashions. The exhibition will be held at Princess Theatre Foyer from Saturday 27th September to Sunday 5th October 2003.

This is a rare opportunity for the public to view over 30 different garments that were considered the height of fashion in their day. The exhibition is the largest of period fashion in Australia, with many of the exquisite garments on display for the very first time.

The collection features women's fashion from the early 1800's through to early 1900's and shows the distinct style of the various eras throughout Australia's fashion history. The range includes gowns featuring painstaking hand-made detail including intricate lace, embroidery and even hand-painted prints. The fabric of several garments on display can be dated as far back as 1827.

Ann Dixon, spokesperson for the National Trust's Costume Collection Exhibition, says that the special collection exudes the opulence, wealth and extravagance of Australia's early upper-class society.

"The exhibition is proof that fashion moves in circles. Some of the rare garments on display feature distinct bodice cuts and corsets which have come back in style and can be seen in fashions currently," said Ms Dixon.

The dresses were usually made for special occasions, including a gown on display, which was worn to the Coronation of Edward VII in 1902 by Mrs Harriet Reade, wife of the Surgeon Major General JBC Reade. The stunning and elaborate gown, made with gold silk, chiffon frills and a front panel printed with roses, is accompanied by gloves, plume for the hair and a copy of the invitation and parking instructions for the carriage.

Also on display is the exquisite 1827 wedding gown worn by a Miss Clara Matilda Hamilton, who was 16 at the time of her marriage to a Mr George Joseph Pitman. The gown was completely hand-made, as the sewing machine hadn't at that stage been invented. The gown's styling reflects the fashion of the time, where sleeves grew wider in order to highlight the tiny waists of the day.

The National Trust will also be conducting a series of seminars during the exhibition giving insight into the fashions and social customs of the eras covered over the exhibition. The seminars will also shed light on the individual history of some of the garments.

  • Saturday 27 September and Saturday 4 October 2.30 pm - 3.30 pm
    - History of Costumes Seminar with a focus on fashions from a range of eras including Victorian to Edwardian

  • Sunday 28 September and Sunday 5 October 2.30 pm - 3.30 pm
    - Wedding Customs and Traditions Seminar

  • Wednesday 1 October 2.30 pm - 3.30 pm
    - Costume Collection Overview Seminar with the opportunity for the public to bring their own heirlooms to be viewed and valued

The Heritage Costumes Collection exhibition runs from Saturday 27 September to Sunday 5 October inclusive from 10.00 am - 5.00 pm each day at the Princess Theatre, 163 Spring Street, Melbourne, and admission is free. Entrance to the seminars is $5.00 per person and bookings can be made prior to the seminar.

For more information about the National Trust's Costume Collection Exhibition and seminar times, visit the National Trust website at, email: or call the National Trust on 03 9656 9800.