Costume Gallery – All That Glitters

This gallery showcases some of the wonderful costumes in our Performing Arts Collection. You can currently see these costumes (and many, many more!) on display at Arts Centre Melbourne in the free exhibition, All That Glitters. This exhibition celebrates the vision behind these costumes, the creativity and skill of those who created them, and the show-stopping performances that brought them to life.

All That Glitters will be on display in Gallery 1 until 23 February 2014.

All That Glitters: Showcasing costumes from Arts Centre Melbourne’s Performing Arts Collection

Gown worn by Jill Perryman as Dolly Levi in Hello Dolly!, The Gordon Frost Organisation, 1995. Designed by Tim Goodchild. Gift of John Frost, 2001. Arts Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection. Photograph by Jeremy Dillon.

All That Glitters showcases some of the most breath-taking examples of stage costume from Arts Centre Melbourne’s Performing Arts Collection. The exhibition celebrates the vision behind these costumes, the creativity and skill of those who created them, and the show-stopping performances that brought them to life.

Costume has played an important role in the development of the Performing Arts Collection since its inception in 1977. The spectacular stage wardrobes of Dame Nellie Melba, Dame Edna Everage and Kylie Minogue lie at the heart of this collection and epitomise the drama, exuberance and glamour of theatrical costume at its most dazzling. These stars of the stage, along with magnificent gowns recently donated by Opera Australia and a number of newly conserved pieces from the hit musicals of the 1950s and 1960s have been the inspiration for All That Glitters.

The exhibition draws together a rich selection of costumes by leading Australian designers including Hugh Colman, Roger Kirk, John Truscott, Kenneth Rowell and Kristian Fredrikson. Many of the costumes have been created to form the centre piece for some of the most lavish productions ever staged by companies such as The Australian Ballet, Sydney Dance Company, Melbourne Theatre Company, Bell Shakespeare and Opera Australia.

Cloak worn by Nellie Melba as Elsa in Lohengrin, c. 1891. Designed by Jean-Phillipe Worth
Gift of Pamela, Lady Vestey, 1977. Arts Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection. Photograph by Jeremy Dillon.

Each costume has its own unique story and All That Glitters retells these stories with photographic images of the costumes in performance, capturing some of Australia’s most charismatic performers in action. Large scale productions from the world of opera create a major focus point for the exhibition with three extraordinary gowns created specifically for Dame Joan Sutherland.

Stunning costume jewellery will offer a historic glimpse at the captivating stage persona of performers such as Nellie Stewart, Queenie Paul and Esme Levante whose appearances lit up the Australian stage in the first half of the 20th Century.  Also featured are treasured pieces from a famously extravagant production of Aida first seen in Australia in the 1930s.

All That Glitters presents a dramatic display of treasured costumes from Arts Centre Melbourne’s Performing Arts Collection, which are unique to Australia’s performing arts heritage.

All That Glitters
Gallery I November 16 – February 23, 2014


Visit us backstage at Dressing Room 34

Barbara Angell admiring her ‘dressing table’ in Dressing Room 34, Hamer Hall, Arts Centre Melbourne.

This weekend we have a special treat in store for those of you in Melbourne. As part of the New Hamer Hall opening celebrations and Open House Melbourne we have curated a special display offering a rare opportunity for you to experience the behind-the-scenes magic of the performer’s dressing room.

Dressing Room 34 features items from Arts Centre Melbourne’s Performing Arts Collection and pays tribute to a diverse cast from a variety of eras and performing arts styles. Featured performers are rope spinner and juggler Tex Glanville, vaudeville singer and dancer Barbara Angell, operetta star Suzanne Steele, 1980s band Split Enz, contemporary dance duo Graeme Murphy and Janet Vernon, and much-loved special guest Ossie Ostrich.

Also keep an eye out for costume items worn by icons of the Australian stage: Dame Edna Everage, Kylie Minogue, Nick Cave, Peter Allen and Reg Livermore.

Dressing Room 34 will be open Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 July from 10am to 4pm. Further details here. Come one, come all!

Celebrating Edna and Kylie

‘Celebrating Edna and Kylie’, featuring highlights from the Dame Edna Everage and Kylie Minogue costume collections at Arts Centre Melbourne’s Performing Arts Collection.

The countdown is on as we race towards the opening of the New Hamer Hall and what better way to kick off the party than with a celebration of two of Australia’s most successful popular entertainers: Dame Edna Everage and Kylie Minogue.

Dame Edna’s Last Hurrah

Mrs Norman Everage first appeared on stage as the ‘Olympic Hostess’ at Melbourne University’s Union Theatre in 1955. She wore no make-up, wig or glasses and her clothes were second-hand cast offs. From these humble beginnings the upwardly-mobile housewife from 36 Humouresque Street, Moonee Ponds took on the world. In 1974 she accepted the title of Dame in 1974 before passing through megastardom in the 1990s on her way to her current gigastardom.

Dame Edna’s fearless social commentary (and her ability to parody those she professes to admire) may have endeared her to generations of fans but it is her visually striking comic wardrobe that has always been her secret weapon. Since 1981, Dame Edna’s manager, Barry Humphries has been donating costumes to the Performing Arts Collection helping us in our quest to document the rise and rise of Edna. The collection now includes over 500 costumes and accessories including many show-stopping gowns designed by Bill Goodwin and Stephen Adnitt.

This year Dame Edna is celebrating her Diamante Jubilee with one final World Tour. While not officially retiring she says she is now ready to ‘kick off her heels and tend to her gladiolas’, although I suspect she will miss the limelight and adulatation.


In 1987, at the height of her ‘Neighbours’ fame, Kylie Minogue released a catchy cover version of the 1960s pop tune, ‘Locomotion’. The song would go on to become the highest selling single of the decade in Australia and buoyed by its success Kylie relocated to London. The rest, as they say, is history.

This year Kylie Minogue – recording artist, actress, style icon and consummate live performer – celebrates 25 years in showbiz, a remarkable milestone in a notoriously fickle industry. The accolades she has received throughout her career are many and include worldwide record sales of over 68 million, ARIA Awards, Brit Awards and in 2004 a coveted Grammy Award. In 2008 she was awarded an OBE for ‘services to music’ and in 2011 she was inducted by the Australian Recording Industry Association into the ARIA Hall of Fame.

In 1991 Kylie donated a single costume from her 1990 ‘Enjoy Yourself’ tour to the Performing Arts Collection. Today, the Kylie Minogue Collection numbers almost 300 costumes charting her stylistic evolution from Girl-Next-Door to Sultry Showgirl in collaboration with high-profile international designers including Dolce & Gabanna, Chanel, Alexander McQueen and John Galliano.

So come in and join us in honouring two very special Australians. Celebrating Edna and Kylie is now showing in Smorgon Family Plaza, Theatres Building of Arts Centre Melbourne, open all day until late.

Ladies Day at the Races 1976

Dame Edna at Ascot races Ladies Day, by John Timbers 1976.

Since its Cup Week here in Melbourne and everyone has toddled off to the races…To celebrate Ladies Day at Flemington today we just had to share this image of Dame Edna in all her glory.

Can anyone help us identify her stunningly dressed companion… surely that’s not Madge? Perhaps its Lillian Frank under that space helmet?

Dame Edna and her mystery companion, John Timbers 1976

A Spectacular Arrival

Performing Arts Collection team member Bridget MacLeod is shown here with the spectacles at our off-site collection storage facility.

The character of Dame Edna Everage was first introduced to audiences over fifty years ago as a humble housewife and has since developed into an internationally recognised megastar. Tailor-made spectacles have been an iconic part of Dame Edna’s character and image for many years. Nothing charts the rise of Edna’s star like her costumes, which have become progressively more outrageous over time.

These spectacular pink spectacles have been generously donated to the Performing Arts Collection by Barry Humphries. Humphries has regularly donated material to the Collection over the past twenty years, resulting in a large and comprehensive archive documenting his artistic endeavors on stage, film and television through programmes, posters, photographs, scripts and correspondence.

Included in the Performing Arts Collection are paintings and drawings executed by Humphries from the 1940s through to the 1960s, and over 90 costumes worn by Dame Edna Everage, Sir Les Patterson and Sandy Stone.

These gigantic spectacles were part of a stage design by acclaimed theatre designer Brian Thomson for the Dame’s Back with a Vengeance tour. Edna made a dazzling entrance by being lowered to the stage atop the spectacles; which measure a huge 6.7m wide by 2.7m high. Back with a Vengeance premiered in New York in 2004, before touring North America from 2005-2006 and Australia from 2006-2007. The spectacles also add to the existing collection documenting Brian Thomson’s career that is held in the Performing Arts Collection.