Thriving and vibrant; the journey of fashion in Australia
by Margaret Sitawa
February 24, 2018
The journey of Australian fashion has revolutionized from the early conservative traditional clothing to more innovative and bold designs in the 21st century. This journey of fashion trends throughout the centuries has seen many designers in Australia credited with changing the face of the industry, has been long but fruitful. With new designs coming up every day, influenced by various factors, Australiaâ€™s talent is one to be watched closely.
Early 19th Century to mid-20th Century
Conservative and laid-back attire
Long ago, fashion in Australia was given low priority. Their traditional attire included Akubra hats, knitted caps, oiled coats, uggy boots among others. The local Aborigines wore very little clothing though they had a myriad of jewelry and accessories such as belts, masks necklaces, headbands, and headdresses. Historically, the men in Australia paid less attention to what they wore. This was in view of retaining their masculinity.
Early fashion in Australia was influenced by the West more so France from early 19th century to mid-20th century. It was closer to the American type of dressing but with a conservative touch. Most of their clothing was influenced by the prevailing climatic conditions and the dressmakers of this time incorporated European fashions.
Mid 20th Century
Bright, colorful and trendy designs
With the progress of technology and easier access to information from other parts of the world by television and cinema, the 1950s marked the revolution of the Fashion industry in Australia. The films and shows by American actors watched by teenagers influenced them to move to relaxed, fun and funky clothes as they wanted to copy the fashion in those films. Notable actors were Marlon Brando who starred in the film The Wild One(1953) and was dressed in blue jeans and a leather jacket and James Dean in a similar outfit in his film Rebel Without a Cause (1955). Young men of this era emulated this style while the young women wore bright colors, tight-fitting blouses tucked influenced by the popularity of rock â€˜nâ€™ roll during that period.
Indigenous people were encouraged by the government to make and market their own fabric. Surfboard shorts, singlets, flip-flops and colorful shirts rose from the beach experience and were integrated into their national dress code. This change marked recognizable fashion and they were able to successfully export leisure beachwear to the United States of America.
Prue Acton, a renowned fashion designer was among the first to shine a light in the industry.With a loan from her parents, started her own business. She made trendy, bold and colorful clothing, only seen in overseas fashion available in Melbourne. Her designs stood out from the rest and were affordable.She was the first female Australian designer to show in New York. Another remarkable designer was Collette Dinnigan who was the first Australian designer to be invited to show on schedule at Paris Fashion Week.This era was marked by other fashion designers such as Lenore Dembski and Robyn Caughlan who was the first indigenous designer to show ready to wear line at the Mercedes Australian Fashion Week in 2003.
Late 20th Century to Early 21st century
Glamorous, bold and exemplary style
As the world continues to move forward in areas of technology and industrialization so do human being strives to conform to the new age of things. As compared to the old ages where Australian men cared not for what they put on, their behavior of fashion has shifted extensively. They spend more money now on physical appearance and accessories. This era has seen the most rapid changes in fashion and the industry is thriving. Talent is nurtured in many ways some which are in universities mainly to experiment and connect with a vast network of other students and exchange ideas that will be instrumental later. Also with the expansion, the art of apprenticeship is incorporated largely in many companies.
The styles mostly displayed in the current age are old designs redefined and redesigned in fun and interesting ways which are replaced quickly as others take their place. Notable designers of this day and age in Australia are Alex Perry, who is known as the most glamorous designer from Australia whose designs have been worn by international celebrities such as Rihanna, Sarah-Jane Clarke & Heide Middleton(Sass and Bide) who design beautiful, exemplary clothes that are recognized widely and Nicky and Simone Zimmerman who have worn many designs including Best Swimwear Brand at Prix de Marie Claire (2005)
Museums in Australia collect Australian dress everyday clothing and inspire confidence in their own industry. The National Gallery of Victoria was the first major survey of fashion in Australia and was opened in March 2016. Showcasing designs from the last 200years such as a glamorous 1950s blue feathered ball gown by Collins Street salon La Petite and a dress from Collette Dinnigan. This move shows the exquisite position of Australian design in the Fashion Industry. With most styles today being a remake of what was worn before, this movement was instrumental in shaping appreciating the tailors of long ago and recognizing the change that has taken place throughout the years.
Australia, being the world second largest consumers of textiles, signifies the value and appreciation they put in their dressing. Out of all the countries in the world, Australians spend the most in clothing. Fashion is admired, cherished and taken with a progressive attitude.
In view of all this, Australian fashion is evolving rapidly as compared to the rest of the world. The Mercedes Benz Fashion week in Australia, a week-long event that takes place every year since 1995, provides the rest of the world with a platform to get a closer look at the established and emerging new designs the country offers. We get to see the vast array of clothing emerging every day and what we see is a thriving and fruitful industry. A multi-cultural nation as it is, the fashion is described as unique, stylish, carefree and sophisticated. Most of the citizens love a simple but elegant type of clothing enough to leave an impression but also being comfortable in them. This kind of clothing is what speaks of the impeccable position of Australian fashion to the rest of the world.