Monday, August 6, 2012

Artistica Glam-estica

Now I know some of you lot are mid-century buffs and it has come to my attention that a most splendid display of 50's and 60's loveliness is housed for a short time in the Queensland Museum. 
My mother was a devoted wearer of Gwen Gillam's dresses in the 60's before she had babies and gave up a disposable income as women often did back then.

Several of the dresses came to live with me in Brisbane in the 80s and 90s where they were worn to B and S balls and pretentious cocktail parties at Uni. My mother got to wear them to much swankier events at Cloudland and the once elegant City Hall or on swish occasions, the Rainbow Room at Lennons. Brisbane was smaller and less multicultural back then but, oh, what a delightful era!

Whether you are a fashionista or not, it is worth the visit to see the exquisite fabrics and workmanship in these lovely dresses. There are photos of some of the dresses being worn at weddings and even a photo of an anonymous bride in a GG dress. The curators hope she will be identified by a visitor to the exhibition.

If I had somewhere fancy to go these dresses would be just perfect. They transcend fashions and trends to be quite dateless. The women who kept these dresses obviously did not let them be worn by their wanton daughters in later decades. Sorry, Mum!

Looky at Gwen's tin of dressmaking goodies and big scissors. I need to buy a new pair every time I sew because they disappear into craft oblivion here.

Those sequins would be at home on any red carpet.

As the Shrimpton effect influenced fashion, Gwen's dresses and suits became more streamlined and modern, always beautifully made.

In fact one of her suits is on the woman on the right in this now famous photo. She is looking at Jean Shrimpton with a politely fixed expression at the 1965  Melbourne Cup where the glass ceiling on hemlines was shattered forever.

There are some lovely extras too like this menu from the tres elegant Rainbow Room at Lennons. My father still waxes eloquent about a meal he had there in high school when the whole class was shouted dinner there for a wealthy friend's birthday. Check out the 'Chicken Astronaut' and the 'Specialties from the East'. Chow Mein comes in a packet now.
Best of all for me were the accompanying fillums on the wall for your viewing  pleasure. The catwalk shows from the 60's are just divine. Mum says they were all trying to look like Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor. There was also a lovely clip about why you might like to live in Australia in 1964 which, coincidentally, my sister sent me last year.
If you are around these parts do drop in. The show is a cracker!
Do you have any Gwen Gillam in your closet?


  1. Oh, they're beautiful. What a glorious exhibition. I had never heard of her, does that mean I'm a dunce, or was she not so well known outside Australia? Lucky you to have owned and worn some of her designs :D

  2. Yes.
    A lot of personal memories there, Annie.

    1. I would love to see a photo of you in some G.G. gear! Speak to the Carmel, please!

  3. I'll bet you were a wanton daughter!

    My parent's Wedding Breakfast was held at Lennons and I'm sure Mum would know about GG. She was prone to cutting the zips out of her dresses and alas had very little to pass on. Were zips expensive back then? Crazy lady.

  4. Hi Annie, thought I'd pop in and say Hi! Sorry I can't say I've ever heard of Gwen Gillam, my mum was a country girl, don't think she had that much style!!! :) Would have been interesting exhibit to see, shame I'm so far away :( my girls would have probably knocked over the mannequins anyway! I've been dropping in from time to time to check on you, I hope your keeping well. We are quite settled into our new surroundings but I am terribly home sick! :( I'll be back to visit my family at Xmas and soak up some sunshine! :)

  5. Hi Annie, just read Fun and Vjs post on Gwen and took her advice and popped over (good thing too because I missed this first time round). I love that green velvet in the third pic - I would wear that without a moments hesitation today. Beautiful!
    I also love the menu from The Rainbow Room. Chicken Astronaut! You need to russle up a recipe in time for our next cook-off. Please.
    How many of your Mum's frocks bit the dust at those B&S Balls?
    I wonder if the wearer of that wedding dress was identified? Hope so.

    1. There was a green taffeta silk, a gold embossed lame and a beaded sleeveless top that makes me cringe at the thought of its loss. The Alice blue linen broderie anglaise one is in a box somewhere under the house. Maybe Lala will resurrect it one day...

  6. It is disappointing to note you did not follow curators request of no photography in this exhibit to protect the garments - many of which are on loan. You certainly had a very snap happy day!


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