You might wonder, why bother going to an exhibition when you can search ‘Australian fashion history’ in Google?
200 Years Of Australian Fashion at the National Gallery of Victoria is more of a time travel experience rather than a mere display of mannequins.
The first major survey of Australia’s fashion history presents over 120 works from more than ninety designers. The physical exhibition proves to be an effective way of reflecting on the history; visitors can actually walk through and feel the fashion as it evolved. It’s nothing like getting fragmented information on the web.
The exhibit is also different to a fashion show. Visitors have more power to choose which garment they want to take a closer look, and they can go back and forth to compare between the different eras. The luxury of time and resource allows the visitors to make their own discovery and observation.
One of the noticeable characteristics of Australian fashion is the diverse cultural influence. Although Europe is often featured in the fashion industry, the exhibition shows that the Asian influence can never be dismissed, especially in Australia. The geographical proximity brought the Asian thread throughout, with the earliest surviving dress being made of Indian muslin, along with a fan believed to be made by Chinese migrants in Darwin in the 1880s. Milliner Ann Shoebridge’s headpiece is inspired by the Japanese geisha.
The eclectic culture made the term “Australian designer” rather inclusive. They are not necessarily born here, but can come later in their life bringing their own cultural heritage. Some of the greatest talents showcased in the exhibition have migrant backgrounds, like Akira Isogawa and Carla Zampatti.
Due to the large volume of the collection, it was hard for some items to tell which label corresponds to which. Aside from that, the exhibition has largely succeeded in creating an immersive timeline for the visitors to feel the atmosphere for each key turning point of the Australian fashion. NGV proved the role of gallery to spark conversation of what fashion means to each Australians, allowing them to have their own interpretation reflecting on the history and their memories.
Featured Video: Yuzuha Oka on 200 Years of Fashion at the NGV (Includes an Interview with one of the Exhibition Curators, Paola Di Trocchio)