Fashion

A guide to researching Australian and international fashion, designs, designers, industries, textiles and fabrics, patterns, tailoring, dressmaking, uniforms, accessories, and body art.

Australian fashion

Journals & magazines

Australian Women's Weekly, August 16 1967 via Trove

Our Library has a rich fashion collection to draw upon. There are a number of magazines that provide an historical context of Australian fashion.

The home: an Australian quarterly

This magazine ran from February 1920 until September 1942.  In the first issue, the editors wrote:

An interesting and considerable section of The Home will be dedicated to the cult of dress, and the best illustrations which art can compass will keep readers in touch with the trend of fashion and the last requirements of feminine adornment.

Madame Weigel’s journal of fashions

The Library holds this Melbourne fashion magazine from 1884 to 1950. See other Madame Weigel publications in our catalogue, some of them digitised and available to view online.

The Australian women's weekly

The Library holds all issues of the magazine from the first one published in 1933. 1933-1982 issues have also been digitised and are available online from the Trove website. The front cover of the first ever issue features fashions worn by Sydney women.

Vogue Australia

The Library holds Vogue Australia in print from 1960. Recent issues are available via our PressReader database.

Catalogue searches

These catalogue searches list a range of Australian fashion publications held by the Library:

Books

Search the catalogue using key words e.g. fashion Australia history. The following books are good starting points:

Schmattes: stories of fabulous frocks, funky fashion and Flinders Lane (2005)
Parade: the story of fashion in Australia (1998)
Australian fashion unstitched: the last 60 years (2010)
In Vogue: 50 years of Australian style (2009)

Newspapers

Newspapers often contained fashion pages and advertisements for fashions. Try some searches of Trove digitised newspapers. Use the suggestions under the Refine your results heading at left of the screen to narrow down your search. For instance a broad search for 'fashion' can be narrowed to illustrated items from the 1920s, finding this 1922 article of new season millinery.

Online

To search articles choose the Articles dropdown option next to the search box on our catalogue and use with keywords. For example, search for articles on the demise of iconic Warrnambool based clothing manufacturer and retailer Fletcher Jones. Electronic resources can be accessed within the Library by anyone and from home by Victorian registered Library members.

Fellow Frockery, a blog created by Kaz Cooke during her State Library Fellowship, showcases treasures and stories about what people wear and why. All posts prior to July 2015 are drawn from the Library collections.

H2004.61/203 Moffats

Robertson & Moffats, the House of Quality,  H2004.61/203

Tailors and dressmakers from Melbourne's past

Many tailors, seamstresses, dressmakers and other clothing and fashion workers were based in and around Melbourne, and across Victoria. If you are researching people involved in clothing and fashion there are a range of resources you can use.

Major newspapers contained advertisements from individuals and businesses (both large and small). See these examples from The Argus for tailor J. P. Jones and for the Leviathan Tailoring Company. Many historic newspapers can be searched online using the Trove website.

The Library holds directories which can be used to trace addresses for individuals and businesses. We also have biography and local history indexes listing articles about people and places. These can be searched through the online Australiana Index.

Many of our research guides offer useful advice in researching people and their business:

Finding images

The Library has a large range of digitised images. Search our catalogue using keywords. Use the options on the right of the screen to further refine your search results.

The Library holds many fashion images from the Rennie Ellis collection. Ellis' photographs date from the 1970s to 1990s. You can also search for images of fashion or models excluding the Rennie Ellis collection.

For images held at other libraries try the Trove image database. This searches holdings at Libraries and other cultural institutions across Australia.

H2012.165/465 Model on ladder

Model on ladder (1952), H2012.165/465

Operation Sunshine

In 1957 a convoy of eight leading Australian manufacturers and five models traveled to London, Amsterdam, Stockholm and Milan. The mission: to parade their designs and show Continental buyers that Australian garments were world-class for price and quality. 

Operation Sunshine was a success, with the Australian Women's Weekly reporting designers and mannequins were "received with enthusiasm by a large audience, including members of the Press and representatives of well-known fashion houses." 

Australian Women's Weekly, 2 Jan 1957. Trove

Leroy, Ecstasy, Henry Haskin, Hit Parader, Scamp Swimsuits, Speedo, Plastalon and Prestige were involved.