Culture Victoria

Digitising Fashion at the National Gallery of Victoria

By Danielle Whitfield, Curator, Fashion and Textiles, National Gallery of Victoria Posted Under Digitising and Conserving Fashion at the NGV

In the last couple of years, the NGV’s Fashion & Textiles department has been gradually been displaying some of the highlights of its nineteenth-century Australian collection. The exhibitions Australian Made, and more recently Fashion Detective, have been exciting opportunities for visitors to see works that are difficult to exhibit and not often seen.

Yet exhibitions are short-lived and so with the help of Culture Victoria, our department has embarked on a project to photograph key historical works for our online collection database. This undertaking will give our garments a life beyond the archive so that audiences elsewhere in the country - and the world - can discover the local dressmakers, tailors and retailers who contributed to the making of early Australian style.

Displaying historical fashion is a lot harder than most people realise. As much as we’d like it to be, life is never a matter of simply dressing a mannequin. Instead each garment brings its own set of challenges which must be addressed before it is deemed presentable. Sometimes the issues are to do with condition, other times they are to do with size and silhouette; often it is both.

Over the next few months this blog will go behind-the-scenes to look at some of the necessary and fascinating operations that go into making a garment ‘look right’ for the purposes of publication or exhibition. This includes conservation practices, display considerations and styling and photographic approaches, as well the material-based research and analysis that informs any decision.

I hope you enjoy the stories!



 1. UNKNOWN, Australia; Wedding dress 1878, cotton, silk, wax, paper, Gift of Mr J. D. Oswald, 1970 (D54-1970)



 2.  UNKNOWN, Australia Riding outfit (c.1890) wool, cotton, silk, Gift of Mr J. G. H. Sprigg, 1971 (D102.a-b-1971)



 3. UNKNOWN, Australia / England; Corset, (1890-1895), silk (satin), cotton (lawn, lace), steel (eyelets, stays), baleen Gift of Mr J. G. H. Sprigg, 1971 (D107-1971)



4. UNKNOWN, Australia Boots (c.1870) leather, metal, silk, cotton (D60-1977)




5. UNKNOWN, Australia, Muff, (c.1890) feathers (albatross), silk (satin) Gift of Mrs R. Hamley, 1969 (D125-1969)


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