Fashion Flashback: Photography’s glamour story exposed

The glamorous story of Australian fashion photography is revealed in Flashback: 160 years of Australian Fashion Photos, a new travelling display opening at the library from 2nd August to 16th August.

Using colourful reproductions, Flashback showcases a number of beautiful and iconic images from the State Library’s unrivalled collection, ranging from mid 19th century hand-coloured portraiture through to contemporary fashion shots.

“Fashion photography wasn’t always about the business of ‘selling’ clothes or showcasing celebrity style, as it is today,” says Margot Riley, curator and State Library fashion expert. “Once, it was a private endeavour with the wealthy posing for photographic portraits wearing their finest clothes to share with family and friends.”

While early portraits of the well-to-do were meant for private/personal use, images of royalty and visiting performers could be bought at local stationers for swapping and collecting, and helped to influence Australian ideas about fashion and glamour.

According to Ms Riley, fashion photography began to expand and pick up pace as photographic processes advanced, becoming faster and cheaper, and mass print media exploded in the late 19th century.

“Prior to the mid 1920s there were no professional fashion models in Australia so pretty society girls were used, but from the 1930s local advertising and women’s magazine publishing industries were in full swing using images of fashionably-dressed upper class women, models and screen stars to promote the latest styles,” Ms Riley says.

“Each image in the display represents a significant chapter in Australian fashion photography history, featuring key moments such as the 1950s appearance for David Jones by American Carmen Dell’Orefice. At age 82, she is the world’s oldest working supermodel and is currently appearing in Australian pyjama designer Peter Alexander’s 2013 Mother’s Day campaign. “A paparazzi shot of former Miss Universe Jennifer Hawkins from the 2010 Australian Fashion Week is also featured in the display.”