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Couture Exhibitions

2009 Melbourne Fashion Festival Cultural Program part 1

By Mark Holsworth and Catherine Voutier

The blockbuster exhibition of the Melbourne Fashion Festival was out of Melbourne at the Bendigo Art Gallery. There has been an average of 2 thousand visitors daily and a long wait in the queue to gain entry. The gallery’s staff and facilities couldn’t cope with the avalanche of people and Bendigo is experiencing a boom in tourists.

This was all for The Golden Age of Couture – Paris & London 1947-57 that featured dresses from Christian Dior and Cristobal Balenciaga. Other items included tiny travelling mannequins about 40cm tall that the French couturiers would bring over to England to display to clients. There were some fascinating British & French films from the period including one showing a model being dressed in the extensive underdress that the New Look form required (corseting, girdles, padded bras, extra padding attached to hips and shoulders). The films also revealed more men attending shows than would be the case today – the men at this time were the ones buying the clothes for their wives. There were also photographs by Cecil Beaton, Richard Avedon and Erwin Bloomfield. Bloomfield’s free Dadaist experiments in photography were not always successful but always adventurous and ambitious. Previously, fashion photographs were taken in studios. With the New Look, models were photographed in the real world showing the clothes as they would be worn in everyday situations.

The National Gallery of Victoria’s exhibition Remaking Fashion deconstructs the process of making fashion. And even in a modest way the way of exhibiting fashion had been deconstructed with the raw wood back frame. A series of Christian Dior toile versions of dress designs showed the structural basics and introduced the rest of the exhibition. This included Westwood’s experiments with traditions updating them to contemporary life, dresses and a slashed jacket by Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons, and an impressive women’s dress remade from men’s garments by local fashion label SiX.

Fashion boutique Marais, located on the 1st floor of Royal Arcade, had a small exhibition of the work of designer Annie Valerie Hash. There were lots of beading and others quirky details. Some of Annie Valerie Hash’s dresses showed the distinct influence of Coco Channel. And on the 2nd floor of Royal Arcade, Don’t Come has cool street clothes and a one room gallery with Drella New York, photographs by Maripolarama. These are mosaics of enlarged snapshot-style photographs of the cool glamorous of NYC. Look there is Andy Warhol eating with Keith Haring, And there’s Madonna, Grace Jones, and hey, there’s Jeff Koons! But this isn’t couture anymore this is street d.i.y. fashion; the subject of our next entry on the 2009 Melbourne Fashion Festival Cultural Program.

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About Mark Holsworth

Writer, independent researcher and artist, Mark Holsworth is the author of the book Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

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