Arts & Culture

The Dressmaker Costume Exhibition Launch In Melbourne With Marion Boyce & Rosalie Ham

April 26, 2016

The teams from National Trust of Australia (Victoria) and Rippon Lea transported their invitees to the dusty little town of Dungatar in the 1950s at their preview and launch of The Dressmaker Costume Exhibition on 21st April 2016.

Find out what it was like touring the exhibition with Designer, Marion Boyce and Novelist, Rosalie Ham!

I feel that I can’t thank the teams enough for inviting me to the preview and VIP gala opening of The Dressmaker Costume Exhibition on Friday, 21st April 2016. It was an honour to meet with the Costume Designer, Marion Boyce and Novelist, Rosalie Ham. Love chatting with them about the filmmaking, designing and production process of the costumes.

I have developed an interest in the film and fashion industry ever since I was young. So.. receiving the invitation to the launch of The Dressmaker Costume Exhibition was the best thing that happened to me in months!

The Dressmaker Costume Exhibition Melbourne

What is The Dressmaker?

The Dressmaker (2015) is an Australian revenge comedy-drama film. The bittersweet film was created based on Rosalie Ham’s best-selling novel. The Dressmaker Costume Exhibition is an exhibition featuring 50 artful and luxurious costumes that were inspired by Parisian couture and carefully curated for the film The Dressmaker (2015). The designs were worn by the cast including Kate Winslet, Judy Davis and Liam Hemsworth.

I find it’s best to familiarise yourself with the setting and screen representations of the story prior to visiting the exhibition. It’ll make the trip a lot more exciting, I promise you. Here’s a brief summary to get you started.

Set in early 1950s in Australia, a beautiful and talented misfit, Tilly Dunnage (Kate Winslet), returns home to Dungatar to tend to her bedridden, eccentric mother Molly (Judy Davis) after many years working as a dressmaker in exclusive Parisian fashion houses.

Tilly unexpectedly falls in love with the pure-hearted Teddy (Liam Hemsworth), and gets a sweet revenge on those who did her wrong as she transforms the women of Dungatar with her sewing machine and incredible sense of style.

The Dressmaker Costume Exhibition Melbourne

The Lady Of Once In A Lifetime Experience As A Lady Of Dungatar Costumes

My experience at the exhibition was simply wonderful and enjoyable. Like a kid, I excitedly and curiously bounced from one room to another, exploring every inch of the mansion and processing as much information as I could.

I am so in love with how the dresses are timeless and effortlessly chic. Though it’s hard to choose a favourite, mine would be Gertrude’s Head Peacock dress. The ensemble includes an evening black lustrous duchess satin dress and a three-tiered eggshell sunray pleated organza cape; finished with a black raffia fed with eggshell floral spray tail. Talk about classy.

Gertrude’s flirty and fun get up that showcases a vintage Sonia Rykiel halter neck pleated, fitted bodied dress is another personal favourite. Its highwaist pleated skirt is exceptionally stunning in red and white spot silk chiffon. Gertrude’s completes the look with a red linen 1950s handbag and 1950s bracelet.

Don’t even get me started on the Three Little Maids’ stunning kimono fabrics! I’m especially intrigued by the golden lamé fabric. Complete work of art, I must say.

The Dressmaker Costume Exhibition Melbourne

It’s amazing how each piece flows beautifully highlighting the best features of its characters. Fascinating how these designs successfully embody and showcase the values and personas of its women characters.

What I find most intriguing and inspiring is Marion’s ability to give her ensemble for The Dressmaker a life and appeal of its own. I still can’t get my head around the fact that these classics would ironically reflect Dungatar’s women vanity and flaws while simultaneously empowering them with confidence and attention through the portrayal of the idealised image of themselves!

My Experience At The Exhibition

Overall, I find the exhibition very well curated and exceptionally love the choice of venue! Thanks to Rippon Lea mansion’s elegance; the beauty of the costumes was able to live up to its reputation, or more accurately on-screen representations. It was such a picturesque scene; every visitor would feel like they are part of a grand film project – a part of Tilly’s world.

So yes, when visiting the exhibition do expect to be transported to Dungantar, as well as personally experience the journey of transformation the women of the little town went through in the 1950s.

Coming prepared and equipped with a fully charged camera would serve a great deal of help. I dare bet you’d undoubtedly be awed by the level of details and artisanship that went into the making of the costumes, and would unquestionably wish to capture those once-in-a-lifetime moments for keepsake.

Another tip would be to check the weather. A stroll or a picnic at the garden would end the day nicely, don’t you think?

The Dressmaker Costume Exhibition Melbourne

I have nothing to complain about this marvellous exhibition, really. I find it eye-opening especially for individuals like myself, who are into films and fashion, and/or wish to better understand the film production and fashion design.

It also perfectly cater to fans of Rosalie’s work and The Dressmaker film. The exhibit does not only give them a post cinematic and reading experience, but also acts as a platform for viewers and readers to further extend their love and discussions of the narrative.

As for my favourite room at the exhibition, I’d say it’s the finishing room, where you can find the equipment used by the Art Finisher, Josephine Johnson. Here you could also find Marion and John Van Gastel talked about the meticulous creation process of the stunning Gertrude’s Head Peacock cape.

The Dressmaker Costume Exhibition Melbourne

On Meeting Kate Winslet & Liam Hemsworth

Marion and Rosalie are really humble, talented and inspiring people. It was really nice listening to their stories as they shared about their passion for fashion industry, films, writing, and their inspiring anecdotes on how they started.

When asked about her inspirations when writing the novel, Rosalie explained that most of it comes from her observations growing up and her travelling experiences.

“I started with what I know and then after that I’ve done a lot of travelling. I travel every season, and when I travel I find that there are a lot of similarities to my own (life). So what you do is that you get a situation and put them alongside each other. I added in a beautiful heroine, and then I added in molestation, dramas, alcohol, adultery, lust, sexual intercourse, violence because I wanted to work with things like vanity. They are the sort of things I see growing up and they reveal in the world.

My mum worked as a seamstress, like most mums did back in the days, and I saw how these women influenced her. I just dramatised them. And my black sense of humour, I don’t know where they come from.”

Rosalie on meeting Kate Winslet, the star of her very own heroine in real life.

Kate Winslet is very normal and very nice. I met her standing at the field when she made it to the football, and she was just standing there looking amazing! Moments after she was attacked by insects so she wasn’t the best friend of mine but it doesn’t even take a second for her to be charming and lovely. She was very nice and is a very nice person, and so is Liam Hemsworth!”

The Dressmaker Costume Exhibition Melbourne

Some Writing Tips

Rosalie also shared some advise for someone who’s writing their first piece to just keep going and get past the moments where they’d think they can’t do it.

“If you’re writing your first novel, just get everything down first and write a 150,000 words and then cut it back afterwards. And because writing is about 80% crafting and you’re working on your own, just keep going. That would be my advise. Because at the end of it all, you’ll think I am a genius!”

The Dressmaker Costume Exhibition Melbourne

Designing & Production Process

Marion on the designing and production process of the costumes when preparing for the film.

“We had to make a lot of multiple pieces of the same designs especially for the Bad Wedding Dress because it’s got to do with comedy. We mostly do it for the ones that require a lot of stunts, and the ones that we have to shoot out of sequence – when the dress that has been dragged through the dusty town has got to appear new again.”

When asked for fashion tips for all women out there to look just like the gorgeous and elegant women of Dungatar, Marion’s answer is to invest in the right underwear.

“I think underwear is also a crucial – a lot of people don’t know how to choose the perfect underwear for their shape. We’ve become so casual about our life but if you get a good underwear you’d get into good posture, you’d stand up straight, and you’d feel like a queen.”

The Dressmaker Costume Exhibition Melbourne

Melbourne Exhibition Opening Night

The VIP opening was also lovely and well organised, I had ample time to make new friends and discuss about the breathtaking exhibition we just saw. I am completely humbled to be a part of this grand and luxurious project.

Once again, thank you National Trust of Australia (Victoria) and Rippon Lea for the exciting opportunity! And thank you for organising such beautiful event exhibiting, promoting and supporting our very own local talents. I look forward to seeing more beautifully curated and stimulating blends of local talents in your future exhibitions!

The Dressmaker Costume Exhibition MelbourneThe Dressmaker Costume Exhibition opens everyday at Rippon Lea House and Gardens until 31 July 2016.

View photos from the exhibition here, and visit The Dressmaker Costume Exhibitiowebsite for more information.

This article is brought to you by Nuffnang, National Trust of Australia (Victoria) and Rippon Lea.

Photo Credit: Trivita Tiffany Winataputri

If you love everything about The Dressmaker (2015) from the film featuring Kate Winslet, Judy Davis and Liam Hemsworth, the costumes to the exhibition in Melbourne, share and pin the picture below with friends with 🙂

Till next time, city walkers!

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