Queensland State Library opens fashion archives to public

PHOTO: Holidaymakers sitting at a cafe in Surfers Paradise, 1958.
PHOTO: Holidaymakers sitting at a cafe in Surfers Paradise, 1958.

QUEENSLAND'S State Library is opening up its fashion archives to the public, who will be able to slip on some white gloves to get among the sunshine state's history.

Rare catalogues, textiles, correspondence, sketches, and patterns from the library's storage have been hand-picked by curators Nadia Buick and Madeleine King, library fellows and authors of the state's first fashion bible, the crowdfunded Remotely Fashionable.

Finds included a pattern whipped up by Gold Coast designer Paula Stafford for Sammy Davis Junior during an Australian tour.

Another is a photo from Henry Talbot and Helmut Newton's studio of Spike Milligan in Australia, posing with a model wearing another Stafford design.

"It is a moment of Australian fashion photography," Ms King said.

"It was buried in the collection, no-one had really taken the time to look thoroughly, there are so many amazing photographs hiding in there."

Sceptics tried to dissuade Ms King and Dr Buick from researching the state's sub-tropical style, having a dig they would soon run out of material.

However, they found a subject worth exploring.

In the 1800s, Queensland had a small population, dominated by men, which meant there was not a huge demand for garment manufacturing.

The lack of cobblers, sewers and knitters meant early settlers were mainly forced to order designs from other states or from overseas, Dr Buick said.

Men took the colonial, safari look - which included a pith helmet - popular with the English in India.

Suits made of white linen also worked to show class, an outfit unblemished compared to field workers.

As the female population grew, so too did the uptake of fashion.

Crinoline skirts were surprisingly popular among the early settlers.

It allowed circulation around the legs, and was good for bush bashing, creating a path in front of you, Ms King said.

Throughout their research, Ms Buick and Ms King found Queensland to be a state of contradictions.

In the 1920s, flapper dressers were longer, as a show of modesty, however paradoxically our adoption of the risqué bikini was years ahead of the United States.

"We tried to make the cliches about Queensland more complicated," Dr Buick said.

"We wanted to say actually, there is a lot going on, and it isn't just that we are copying other places, although there is certainly plenty of that.

"We are not saying it is unique, but we do think it is quite fascinating and distinctive and certainly very idiosyncratic, which for as researchers is very interesting."

As reported by the ABC. 

Topics:  fashion gallery general-seniors-news opening public queensland

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