Zoe, Mrs Mary, Marjorie and Chloe Gullick, outside Altoncourt, Killara (ca. 1909). Zoe, Marjorie and Chloe are wearing wide-brimmed sun hats, a look which Margot Riley says Australians pioneered.
ALARMINGLY, WHEN I ASK historian Margot Riley what Australians have contributed to fashion, she immediately brings up a classic combination – the safari suit and long socks.
“I think that was pretty uniquely Australian,” Margot says dryly. Thankfully, she moves on and lists a few other Aussie fashion innovations.
Eleanor Elizabeth Stephen (ca. 1855) sits in a lovely crinoline dress. She is likely attached to a steel rod at her neck to hold her still for the photo. “People think why are they looking so serious, but it’s quite difficult to hold a smile still for the length of time required. It could be up to minute in these early days,” says dress historian Margot Riley
“In the 19th century there were quite a lot that were designed to deal with climatic condition…the wearing of sunhats in town and light-weight silk coats in summer.
And then of course now you get wonderful local designers who are responding to the local environment, people like Linda Jackson and Jenny Kee.
I think that sort of bush couture aesthetic that they developed in the 1970s and ’80s was a very important shift trying to create and independent unique look that tried to set Australia apart.”
Opera singer Madame Carandini and her three daughters (ca. 1876) in the era when it became fashionable to collect photos of public figures.
For those that don’t know of them already, Linda Jackson and Jenny Kee are cut from the same cloth, producing patterned and quilted clothing in bright eye-assailing colours.
In our settler days, however, Australian fashion was regularly hijacked as a more subtle disguise.
“In Europe there was a very strong code about what was worn, by whom and doing what, and people knew that and they were very sophisticated in reading a crowd,” Margot says.
“[Early Australians] could change their look when they came to Australia…and they took advantage of distance and poor communication to reinvent themselves.”
Valma Ashcroft (later Burrows, at left), one of Australia’s earliest paid fashion models, and another model in Australian fashion outside the Minerva French Perfumery, Kings Cross, 1941.
Once they’d made something of themselves early convict emancipists were not shy about flashing their wealth around either. “There’s always comments made about how flashily they dressed,” says Margot. “Australians had a very vibrant workforce here; labour was in demand so the working man probably had more disposable income than in many other countries in the 19th century and the fashions reflect that.”
Lucille Désirée Ball (1911-1989) was an American actress, comedienne, model, film-studio executive, and producer.
She was best known as the star of the self-produced sitcoms I Love Lucy, The Lucy–Desi Comedy Hour, The Lucy Show, Here’s Lucy, and Life with Lucy.
In 1962, Lucille Ball became the first woman to run a major television studio, Desilu Productions, which produced many popular television series, including The Untouchables, Mission: Impossible and Star Trek.
Lucille Ball did not back away from acting completely, appearing in film and television roles for the rest of her career until her death in April, 1989 from an abdominal aortic dissection at the age of 77.
These photos that capture portraits of this beautiful and talented woman in the 1930s.
Remember that 1920s encompasses a decade which is a long time in fashion, so there is not just one definitive look. At the beginning of the 20s, women were moving from their confined Edwardian corsets to rejecting them completely with their “dropped waist” dresses.
But by the end of the 1920s, the waist became popular again as women enjoyed their curves.
Take a look at these glamorous wedding dresses in France which were published on Les Modes (Paris) from between the 1920s and 1930s.
Growing up, our house was always full of storybooks. I would come home from school and my mother would have some incredible eastern European volume.
“Look at this one,” she’d say. “I need to show you.” We’d sit together on the sofa. I’d rest my head on her chest and she’d read to me.
In April 2008, while living in France, my mother was diagnosed with a brain tumour, and died seven months later.
Her decline was so fast that she wasn’t able to come back to England.
Her funeral – had it been in the UK – would have been a celebration of her legacy. As a schoolteacher she had inspired so many with literature and imagination. When I got back, I knew I needed to do something.
Nature became a huge comfort and helped me process my grief, which in turn inspired my photography. I found this location, Leith Hill, in Surrey, just as the bluebells were blooming.
The colour was exactly as intense as it is in my photograph. They come and go so quickly though, there was no time to actually make a picture there. I had to wait until the following spring.