The serial fashion exhibition goer

In an area where fashion exhibitions are few and far between, I’ve been to TWO in the past week (not counting Allan Aughey last week). How lucky am I!

I went to both of them with Mum, who also sews, so it was extra nice.

Here are some of the highlights of both. If you live in or are visiting Adelaide, South Australia, I highly recommend getting along to them – I would definitely go and see both of them again.

Living in the 1970s

At the Unley Museum until the end of April. Entry is free.

This exhibition is pure fun! So many bright clothes. No high fashion here, just clothes worn by everyday women 50 years ago in their everyday lives.

The exhibition groups outfits in themes, such as dinner party attire, beachwear, going to church, nightwear, women in the workforce, etc, rather than individual descriptions. The clothes have been photographed on models and then put into what looked like a page from a magazine, with a description underneath. This fooled me for the first one or two – I thought Wow! They managed to find identical garments in an old magazine!

Just the thing for your next Tupperware party!
Doesn’t the dress look so different when it’s being worn?
Some fabulous swimwear.
Mum and I didn’t know what the green and orange round fish things were, but Instagram friends have since confirmed they’re paper plate holders (we thought they might have been some sort of beach game or something).
Here’s a close up of the matching bathing cap!
Exhibitions 1970s dinner parties
Ah, dinner parties! My parents hosted and attended many. People dressed up for them.
Exhibitions 1970s church wear
Church attire was still quite formal in the 1970s, much as it is for funerals and weddings now.
teal blue coat dress
I wondered if this was someone’s chuch/best outfit? A detail of the trim is in the header of this blog post.
I also wondered if it was homemade. Mum and I speculated whether some things were homemade or shop-bought (or had been altered at home).
Hot pants? Mum and I were both in the wrong era of our lives for hot pants; she spent much of the 1970s in maternity wear, and I wore sturdy preschooler overalls.
Another hot pants outfit we missed out on wearing.
I’m not sure how one would get into this – there doesn’t seem to be any zips etc.
Note the fab lime green crocheted dress in the background.
three dresses
Three BRIGHT dresses! The crocheted one was really something. Mum had a friend who crocheted her own wedding dress.
Three more bright dresses, including the pink floral caftan again. All fully synthetic!
Almost all of the outfits looked 100% synthetic. Crimplene trousers from Target, acrylic crocheted dresses, nylon caftans, etc. Everything was pristine – I have no doubt the clothes will last another 50 years!
sheer ruffled front blouse
There were quite a few blouses/dresses with sheer sleeves and ruffles like this one, and solid bodies. The sleeves ended in cuffs with matching sheer ruffles around the edges of the cuffs.
The safari suit. Mum had one in classic khaki.
Women typically weren’t allowed to wear slacks to work unless it was part of a pantsuit.

Along with the clothes, there were accessories on display too…

Folding origami dresses
As a bonus, there was an activity table with an origami project to do. Mum and I perched on stools and folded ourselves an origami dress. Apparently there’s a different one each week. (Masks were mandatory when we went, but not now.)

This is a really fun exhibition, and great to see with someone who remembers the 1970s.

Silhouettes – Fashion in the shadow of HIV/AIDS

At the David Roche Foundation House Museum until June 18th.

Silhouettes exhibition

It’s 40 years since the emergence of HIV/AIDS and this exhibition celebrates the work of fashion designers lost to the virus. Consequently, most of the clothes on display are from the 1980s, but some are from the 1960s and 70s.

Of the designers, some were familiar names (Halston, Bill Gibb, Tommy Nutter, Perry Ellis, Moschino were ones I knew) but there were plenty I hadn’t heard of. Many had been forgotten, partly due to the stigma of dying with HIV/AIDS. Many of the designers quietly put their affairs in order and closed their businesses when they became ill. Perry Ellis and Moschino are the only ones that have continued to today.

There was a wide variety of clothes in this exhibition, and a really wide variety of materials used – knits, lycra, sequins, plastics, fur, silk, cotton, tweeds, jersey, leather…almost anything you can think of.

I don’t have as many photos of this exhibition, but here are some highlights:

Halston dress
My favourite in the exhibition was this pink Halston dress from 1970. I thought it was satin until I looked close – it’s synthetic jersey, with perfectly machine stitched rolled hems.
The gold dress is also by Halston, 1981.
Willi Smith
My other favourite was this fun Willi Smith dress.
I had only heard of Willi Smith via McCalls sewing patterns (there’s an archive of them here) but reading more, I admire his “affordable, accessible clothes for everyday” ethos.
Adrian Cartmell
Mum’s favourite was this black and white dress with dramatic sleeves by Englishman Adrian Cartmell.
Hardly any of his garments exist now, but he produced many patterns for McCalls and Simplicity.
Patrick Kelly
Mum’s other favourite was this jacket by Patrick Kelly, from 1989. The jacket has mis-matched colour beads for buttons.
Kelly was the first American to be admitted to the Chambre syndicale du prêt-à-porter.
Clovis Ruffin
Two stylish dresses, both from 1975, designed by photographer-turned-fashion-designer Clovis Ruffin. Clovis also designed for Butterick sewing patterns.
Bill Gibb
Two dresses by Bill Gibb – the one on the left was worn by Anjelica Huston in Harpers & Queen in 1971, and is made from unusual screen-printed velvet.
Bill Gibb is included in this exhibition; although officially he died of bowel cancer, it was widely reported that his death was AIDS-related. The claim was refuted by his friends and family and this archived obituary reflects some of the shame and stigma around HIV/AIDS.
Tommy Nutter
Some menswear by Tommy Nutter, the “rebel Savile Row tailor”. This suit is just superb.
Australian AIDS quilt
There were two rooms of fashion then there was a display of other related things, including part of the Australian AIDS memorial quilt.
Wall of t-shirts with political and safe sex messages
There was also a wall of t-shirts with safe sex and activist messages on them. Some were part of a campaign to put pressure on the government to stop delaying approvals of HIV medications.

I admit found this fashion exhibition somewhat sad, as every designer featured was dead; many didn’t live beyond their 40s. Some had partners die at the same time and others left young families.

There are more exhibition photos and an interview with the curator here. Btw, the souvenir catalogue for this exhibition is excellent – one of the best I’ve seen. Reading it is almost like visiting the exhibition again.

Silhouettes is a wonderful opportunity to see international fashions up close, and also to discover the talent of forgotten designers.



  1. Julie on April 19, 2022 at 8:14 pm

    What an amazing collection! The 70’s fashion with the ‘magazine’ touch was very clever. Thanks Liz for the experience of a trip down memory lane. I loved it! I was a teen in the 70’s and yes, hot pants were in the wardrobe – a bright yellow bib and brace affair, set off with a long sleeved shirt that had thick cuffs and an elongated pointed collar in black fabric covered in white daisies. Oh! and let’s not forget the black ‘chocker’! So cool!!! And the smock top with matching hot pants, flairs and body shirts and of course the white V-kneed jeans. One could go on and on ……. The trip has left me with a crazy grin.

    • lizhaywood on April 19, 2022 at 9:09 pm

      Cheers Julie, I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Your 70s wardrobe sounds absolutely fabulous!

  2. Michelle Shaffer on April 20, 2022 at 10:00 pm

    Wow! I am having some sweet memories of prom dresses I wore that were home sewn. I was more of an Oleg Cassini girl, my sewing buddy a Bill Blass aficionado. Thanks for the post.

    • lizhaywood on April 20, 2022 at 11:00 pm

      Cheers Michelle! I think Mum was a bit Oleg Cassini in her day. So grateful for designers who do sewing patterns.

Leave a Comment