Scholarship on Dress

Until the 1990s, the study of dress and fashion in Australia was marked by limited scholarship, one reason being the cultural disparagement of a practice traditionally associated with women's interests. Harsh environmental conditions in rural areas, especially dominated by men, meant fashionable dress was often given a low priority. Australian men have historically prided themselves on a lack of attention to the finer details of appearance, regarding this as incompatible with masculinity. While this conservatism shifted markedly with the expansion of urban living, and an increasingly materialistic social outlook after the 1980s, disparagement of clothing seems to have flowed on to a general unease about the subject of fashion itself. With some notable exceptions, such as the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, museums and art galleries have shown little sustained interested in collecting Australian dress, especially everyday clothing. The collecting of penal clothing is one exception. All of this has lent a lack of legitimacy to the subject, something slowly being remedied as Australia gains confidence in the products of its own fashion industry and the showcasing of dress by its movie stars and sportspeople.

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