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The Dressmaker Costume Exhibit

Ok so not a garment this time but something sewing related nonetheless…

My lovely little sewing group always has a December Christmas outing, some years we go to high tea or to lunch. This year we decided to visit the amazing exhibit at Ayers House Museum of The Dressmaker costumes. Mum and I went to the Phrynie Fisher exhibit last year which was created by the same team and loooved it. So I was super excited to come back for this exhibit!

We went as a group to see the film when it was released here in Australia and I’ve previously read the novel by Rosalie Ham. No spoilers but suffice to say I think it is an extraordinary story, beautifully told, deep, darkly funny and almost nothing like any one expects. A lot of my friends didn’t like that it wasn’t your typical Hollywood-happy-ending type of story but I loved that it was different and so richly told in both media. If anyone from outside Australia has read/watched this story let me just confirm that it captures small-town Australia in the 1950’s perfectly (right down to the tea, vovo’s and lamingtons alongside the gossip, judgement and secrets) at least in my opinion. I actually travelled through the Wimmera region where Dungatar is set earlier in the year and could truly appreciate the landscape that gives rise to this wonderful setting.

Marion Boyce actually was the costume designer on both exhibits (Phrynie Fisher and the Dressmaker) and she is truly an artist and well deserving of every accolade she is awarded. I’m constantly in awe of how well she understands cut and flow of fabric and how she uses these gorgeous clothes to complement and tell a story. There is no touching allowed but non-flash photos can be taken at the exhibit so let’s dive right into this amazing display!

That Red Coat Dress (there’s a sheath underneath) as worn by Kate Winslet. This was an amazing textured silk, almost like a heavy taffeta or twill and closed with press studs under the buttons.


This was a drool worthy wool cashmere jacket and wool flannel trousers. The colour is off, but in real life this is a delightful mint colour. I want this piece so much!

Each outfit was accompanied by a page or 2 of information including pictures from the film and information on fabric type/colour choice etc. Sadly my colours are not great in these pics. Gertrude’s ball gown above was actually the softest mint green and was just exquisite in reality.

This display of vintage hats used in the film was just astounding. I wanted all of these to some degree and it was wonderful to see real vintage pieces mixed in with the custom made costumes.

I adore this simple sun dress made so elegant by using silk chiffon and such intricate pleating detail. None of this is gathered, it’s all tiny stitched pleats around the bust and then professionally set sunray pleats on the skirt. This dress also had a really fun display with its own wind machine to create that floaty Marilyn Monroe feel. I’m really thinking of creating something similar for me, maybe using something like the Sewaholic Lonsdale dress?

Not just flirty, there are some stand-out sculptural pieces here too. My mum loved this piece.
Beautiful embroidery work. So pretty!!
Another sculptural piece. This had an incredible shaped godet at the centre back.
Posing in the dress ups provided at the display (hat, gloves, wrap not my own).

My dress is a vintage reprint from 1952 – Butterick B5880 with about a foot cut off the hem as I’m so short and the dart’s left out. Belt was made with the dress using my Grandma’s vintage buckle. The fabric is just basic cotton lawn in blue and white polka dot and lined in cherry red. I have another version of this in Red Chinese brocade with purple lining as a cocktail dress.

My sewing ladies!

Mum and me in front of the Dungatar Station sign 🙂

This is just a taste of what was on display here. the set up is wonderful and the Museum volunteers are super friendly and knowledgeable. Entry cost was $20 for an Adult and they even include a iPad with virtual tour for those who can’t make it up the stairs in the house to the second floor displays.

I think we went on one of the last weekends of the display so sorry if you’ve missed out – I thought it was well worth the effort even if you haven’t seen the film or read the book.

Hope you enjoyed this detour into costume town! Will return with regular garments soon. I get these posts typed up fine but then take forever to get photos to go with them haha!

Stace OXOX