Australian Stories in Fashion & Quilts – NGV Australia, 2016

Fashionable Fabric

Annie Ellis Australia 1870–1967 Dressing gown 1935, silk, wool, cotton, viscose, rayon, metallic thread, (a) 128.0 cm (centre back), 51.0 cm (sleeve length) (dressing gown), (b) 242.0 x 10.0 cm diameter (variable) (belt), National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Gift of Mrs Annie C. Champion, 1989 (CT136.a-b-1989)

Unique Australian stories will be told through major exhibitions throughout autumn and winter 2016 at the NGV International the iconic building on St Kilda Road and NGV Australia in the Sir Ian Potter Centre at Federation Square.

200 Years of Australian Fashion and Making the Australian Quilt 1850 – 1950 are two unique and very special exhibitions that will be on show at Federation Square, Melbourne’s favourite place to meet.

Evolving through some of the most dynamic fashion eras in our history, from periods of progress when forward-thinking designs were reflected in glitz and glamour and to eras when strong homespun fabrics were favoured in times of war and deprivation, these two shows will both contrast and compliment each other.

Tony Ellwood, Director of the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) notes the gallery provides ‘… a vital social space for the community to experience and engage with art and one another’. Programs are designed to stimulate conversation and encourage debate about the dynamic eras of change and innovation all Australians have experienced over the last 200 years.

Today contemporary textile historians deduce a great deal about a society and culture via its traditions and folklore from those materials chosen down through the centuries, to weave our threads of destiny.

Fashion 3

Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson in front of the backdrop used for the Flamingo Follies, Bondi Pavillion parade, 1975, Photographer: Tim Porter, courtesy National Gallery of Victoria

Fragments, and great woven textile works in museums around the world reveal that good strong cloth has always provided for humankind from our early beginnings and, in both life and death.

200 Years of Australian Fashion from 5th March – 31st July, 2016 will be explored, through an innovative display of some one hundred and twenty garments.

They will represent the legacy and the currency of Australian fashion designers.

Director Tony Ellwood noted ‘…this the first major survey of Australian fashion to be held in this country’.

The display will feature garments produced by salons established on Collins Street, Melbourne to studios at Bondi Beach in Sydney as well as those born on the boulevards and backrooms of Queenslander’s in Brisbane.

There will be a diverse range of programs presented with weekend pop-up design talks and a symposium exploring the question.

What is Australian fashion?
Curators, designers, practitioners and academics will actively engage audiences through design talks, curator’s perspectives and designer-led workshops.

Contemporary designers such as Dion Lee, Ellery, Romance Was Born and Toni Maticevski will be featured alongside works spanning our historical era of seeking elegance as well as those deviating or departing from convention.

Detail Fabric

Detail: Annie Ellis Australia 1870–1967 Dressing gown 1935, silk, wool, cotton, viscose, rayon, metallic thread, (a) 128.0 cm (centre back), 51.0 cm (sleeve length) (dressing gown), (b) 242.0 x 10.0 cm diameter (variable) (belt), National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Gift of Mrs Annie C. Champion, 1989 (CT136.a-b-1989)

Private loans, key collections such as those at the NGV itself and the Museum of Applies Arts and Sciences in Sydney, will provide a fascinating array of outfits and include multimedia footage, interviews, photographs, works on paper and more.

Making the Australian Quilt 1850 – 1950 from 22nd July – 6th November 2016 is also unique. Showcasing the social and historical fabric of an array of quilted garments and counterpanes of cultural significance on display.

This show will reveal the ‘…social history of countless ordinary people, histories which otherwise would never have been written, reflecting the life in this country over two centuries’ said Australian Quilt historian, author and collector Dr Annette Gero.

She is co-curating the show with the NGV”s Katie Somerville, Senior Curator Fashion and Textiles.

From the soft light luxury of a quilt woven with love that provides a warm welcoming and secure feeling you have when cuddling down on a cold wintery night to a time when the tone set by “High Society” was exemplified by the great ladies of the demi monde and self-confident men wore tailcoats or frock coats and cravats, everyone will be captivated by the beauty and style of the textiles on display.

They are all conversation starters.


The Rajah quilt 1841, British makers on board the Rajah en-route to Hobart. Collection of the National Gallery of Australia. Gift of Les Hollings and the Australian Textiles Fund 1989 courtesy National Gallery of Australia

The popular and renowned Rajah Quilt worked industriously in 1841 by ‘the convicts of the ship Rajah during their voyage to Van Diemans Land’ will be lent by the National Gallery of Australia. It will be on show alongside wonderful works from public and private collections.

Examples by renowned makers Mary Jane Hannaford, Marianne Gibson and Amelia Brown will be sure to engage the eye, when shown alongside a number of recently discovered pieces not exhibited before.

Quilts, coverlets, counterpanes and quilted garments, patched and pieced works made in Australia or with a significant Australian provenance will be displayed alongside those 19th century English quilts brought or sent to Australia.

They both informed and influenced the early quilting practices of local makers and will be integral to the fascinating array on show for all members of the family to enjoy.

The exhibition encompasses quilts created as expressions of love and family connection, those stitched out of necessity in an environment of constraint and hardship as well as produced in the context of leisure.

Many of the pieces in the show were created within an intimate setting, yet have a unique ability to convey a powerful story as integral to a society who were weaving their history on a far broader platform of cultural significance.

Annette GeroDr Annette Gero has been documenting and collecting quilts since she gained her PhD in 1982 including those that have been made from colonial convict times to 1950 and by men in times of war from the Napoleonic Wars in Europe onward.

In 2015 she curated a show at Sydney featuring Quilts made during wartime, at The Manly Art Gallery and Museum in the famous harbour and beach suburb of Sydney, Australia.

Quilt 2

Misses Hampson active in Australia (early 20th century) The Westbury quilt (Sampler quilt) (c. 1900–03), cotton (embroidery, flannel and applique), 200.0 x 300.0 cm, courtesy National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased through the Australian Textiles Fund 1990

A past President of the Quilt Study Group of Australia Dr Gero is today a renowned lecturer and quilt historian who has contributed to the growth of knowledge about the history of Australian quilting, documented in the Archives of the National Library of Australia. Canberra.

She has lectured throughout Australia, in the USA, Canada, New Zealand, France and England and has exhibited quilts throughout Australia as well as at the Musee De L’impression Sur Etoffes, Mulhouse France; the Musee des Traditions et Arts, Normandy, France; the International Quilt Show in Houston, USA and the European Quilt Symposium, Alsace, France.

In 1986 she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society for Arts (London) in recognition of her work on Australian quilt history and became member of the Advisory Board of the International Quilt Study Center, Nebraska, USA and an Associate Fellow; Founder and Patron of the Sydney Quilt Study Group.

Her books include Historic Australian Quilts, Quilts: The Fabric of Society and her most recent Wartime Quilts: Appliqués and Geometric Masterpieces from Military Fabrics.

200 Years of Australian Fashion and Making the Australian Quilt 1850 – 1950 are two unique and very special exhibitions to look forward to in 2016 down under.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016







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