Friday, September 7, 2012

From rags to riches, clothes make history

  • 7 Sep 2012
  • The Sydney Morning Herald
  • Julie Power

‘‘HISTORY has a reputation as boring and irrelevant,’’ says the executive officer of the History Council of NSW, Zoe Pollock. That is why Threads, the theme of History Week, is taking history ‘‘out of libraries and museums’’ to reach anybody who ever got out of bed and wondered what to wear.
Photo: Janie BarrettReflecting the past . . . Natalie Meeuwissen in a Jean Garling-inspired dress, Roman Petrovsky in a Bennelong-inspired jacket, and the History Council’s Zoe Pollock.
‘‘By looking at the history of clothes, our aim is to reach people who might not to go to a library or pick up a history book,’’ Ms Pollock said.

There will be exhibitions and talks on what clothing says about Australian history. ‘‘Everyone can relate to clothes,’’ said the dress historian Margot Riley, a curator with the State Library of NSW. ‘‘At some point of the day, we all have to make decisions about getting dressed, and that’s very much relevant to the history of our daily lives.’’

The council asked six fashion designers to design clothes using a historical figure as their muse. The snappy dresser who gave his name to Bennelong Point 200 years ago is the muse for a new blazer and tie by the contemporary gentleman’s tailor P. Johnson to launch History Week.

‘‘Bennelong and a lot of the indigenous men responded to Western dress,’’ Ms Riley said. ‘‘They didn’t like trousers, so they’d picked and chose what aspects to take on. They definitely liked jackets, particularly their warmth, and they liked display features like fancy silk shirts. And they also loved hats.’’

Jean Garling, a lieutenant in the army medical service during World War II and arts patron, was the muse for a khaki dress by Camilla and Marc. It has a skirt fit for a ballerina, and the top has epaulettes and an army belt.

Annette Kellerman, an Australian swimmer who in 1907 was fined for wearing a body-hugging one-piece on a Massachusetts beach, was the inspiration for the designer Zimmerman.

For History Week (September 8 to 16) events, see .au/history-week.

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