Como Fashion Quarter is an "immersive installation" currently on at Como House mansion in South Yarra. According to the National Trust website:
"Como Fashion Quarter is an immersive exhibition of style and design that unpacks the polish of fashion photography, exposing the invisible staging, production and process behind an image.
In this exhibition four artists each with a distinctive approach will transform a quarter of Como House, merging the National Trust Costume Collection with contemporary practice" (1)
How to wear your riding hat with your crinoline
Four artists and stylists were given access to the National Trust's costume collection and basically told to do whatever they liked with it. I really should call this post "Fashion Three-Quarters" because it was only when I was on the way home that I realised I had only seen work by three of the artists. Wherever the work of Kiri-Una Brito Meumann was, I missed it, or maybe it was subtle. So apologies to the artist.
The installations are in separate rooms dotted about the house. The first I saw was by stylist Marc Wasiak, who imagined a tableau of a 19th century family and their love of things French, as an expression of "the pervasiveness of French culture in fashion" and "The myth of Paris as the capital of fashion" (2) There were some real treasures here.
Here is a close up of the lace in the outfit 2nd from the left:
Evening dress, circa 1910.
This one is a 19th century fancy dress costume, but the bonnet or "mob cap" dates to 1780.
And the piece de resistance:
Victorian embroidered wedding boots, I think.
Stylist Stuart Walford imagines a story where a young servant girl fantasises about wearing the garments she cares for. He mingles historical and contemporary garments with film to create a theatrical experience.
Here are ghosts of images evoking the girl romping in her underwear and playing dress up.
Silk, lace and jet bead cape circa 1890
At back - Victorian riding hat and 1890s cape blending with a contemporary hat and jacket in the foreground masquerading as Victorian.
The centre of Walford's installation is a film of the servant girl at her clandestine wardrobe.
Opera cape circa 1900 from another of Wasiak's tableaux. Embroidery in metallic thread on wool.
Stylist Thalea Michos-Vellis took a completely different approach to her installation, where the clothing seems quite incidental. Her work "Freddie's Room" is inspired by the Como legend of the ghost who inhabits one of the bedrooms. Larger than life photographs of models wearing garments from the National Trust collection form characters who inhabit the room, perhaps observing or observed by the ghost. "The fashion was chosen to present a modern day challenge to the ghost" (3) and Michos-Vellis "cast women she admired for their strength and energy" to take on the ghost.
Here is a close up of the wonderful bedspread, embroidered with hundreds of initials, but sadly no explanation of their significance. I would guess they were family members.
Upstairs, Wasiak continued his French theme with the room entitled "Tri-colour" - a collection of fabulous garments mostly from the 60s and 70s, and all echoing the red, white and blue theme of the French flag.
Many of these garments were on loan from private collections or vintage shops.
In the adjoining room, Wasiak has attempted to create the Salon de Lumiere, an artifically lit room reportedly used in Worth's salon in Paris, and recreated in Melbourne in the 1890s by dressmaker Mrs Eeles, of Collins St. (No doubt, the "French end" as we locals call it). The idea was for customers to see how their gowns looked under artificial light, using gas or candles. Wasiak's salon is a catwalk with mirrors, light and shadows.
Here a 1935 peignoir over contemporary underwear is complemented by a circa 1880 bonnet.
Walford's dress up loving servant girl makes an appearance in more rooms upstairs.
Here is a close up of the amazing skirt:
Wedding skirt circa 1880. It appears to be smocking with beading, or rather, faux pearls.
Victorian bodice, circa 1890, topped by a 1965 hat.
It is certainly an interesting way to view treasures from the National Trust's collection. Go with plenty of time to view the details and read the descriptions.
Como Fashion Quarter is on until July 1, on selected days, so check the website before going.
(1) National Trust, Vic.; 2018; https://www.nationaltrust.org.au/event/como-fashion-quarter/
(2) Exhibition notes; 2018; Como Fashion Quarter; National Trust of Victoria
(3) Exhibition notes; 2018; Como Fashion Quarter; National Trust of Victoria