You Can't Do That! Australians Breaking The Fashion Rules

Louisa Amelia Jane Vintage Fashion Store

Australian Fashion Trail-Blazers

You Can't Do That is a fashion exhibition currently showing at the Melbourne Museum. It showcases the work of a handful of Australians who were and are ground breakers on the world fashion stage. It is a small but interesting exhibit, only one gallery, but well worth taking in if you are in Melbourne.


Post War Identity

Stella Dare, with her label Stell-Ricks, changed the face of post war fashion in Australia. According to the exhibition notes, "She intuitively adapted each season's aesthetic themes to the notoriously practical wants and needs of Australian women". (1) Dare was one of the first Australian designers to create original designs rather than just slavishly follow the European fashion houses.

stella dare stell-ricks australian fashion designer 1950s silk rust coat you cant do that melbourne museum

Stell-Ricks  ribbed Ottoman silk coat, 1950, a bold and original fabric choice.

Prue Acton

1960s Fashion Queen

Prue Acton is "Australia's Golden Girl of Fashion" (2). As a 22 year old she went to New York with a suitcase full of samples, snaffled an interview in the back seat of a cab, and came home with a lucrative contract to supply US stores. Acton designed for the youth market, a new concept in the 1960s. Acton's '60s designs pushed the boundaries in all directions - notably with her ever rising shockingly short hemlines.

Wool mini dress - 1967

Prue Acton designed the fabric for this dress - 1963

Lois Briggs

Indigenous Fashion Model

Lois Briggs, born 1944, was Australia's first indigenous fashion model, not only  becoming a role model for all Australians but also promoting pride in Aboriginal culture and heritage at a time when Aboriginal people in Australia couldn't even vote.

Jenny Bannister

Punk and Junk

Jenny Bannister shocked Australian fashion audiences in the '70s and '80s with her punk inspired outfits made largely from recycled materials and made walking works of pop art. Readers fortunate to have seen her black snakeskin wedding dress on display at the  "Love Actually" exhibition in Sydney will know what I mean.

Je Suis Mod dress - 1978

Splash Plastic Ballerina dress - 1978

Christopher Graf

Colour Pop

In the 1980s and '90s Christopher Graf "cherry-picked the best bits of 1950s glamour and modernised them with sharpened shapes in candy colors" (3) His trendy boutique was the place to be seen in Melbourne's Chapel Street precinct.

Fashion Victim dress, 1999

Spiral Dress - 1997-98

Andreja Pejic

Transgender Super Model

Andreja Pejic is trail blazing the fashion world as the world's first transgender supermodel. Born in Bosnia but living in Melbourne when she was "discovered", Pejic made a name for herself on John Paul Gaultier's runway and her career continues to impress.

You can see film of Pejic in action on the catwalk at the exhibition.

Ethical Contemporary Fashion

The exhibition concludes with mention of a handful of contemporary labels making a stand for ethical principles in fashion - ethical treatment of workers, locally sourced and produced fabrics and designs and commitment to positive environmental principles. Some designs from Arnsdorf, Nobody Denim, Lois Hazel and New Model Beauty Queen are on display.

Arnsdorf Celeste Suit made from dead stock fabric

While at the museum I also managed to take in a few of the top designs from the next generation of designers,  this year's VCE fashion design students.

Holly Robertson from Ballarat High School was awarded the 2018 Deans Art Prize for sustainable practices for the dress in the foreground.

You Can't Do That is a small but interesting exhibition well worth seeing. It is on until 15th July.

 Louisa Amelia Jane Vintage Fashion Store

(1) (2) & (3) You Can't Do That exhibition notes; 2018; Melbourne Museum

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