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


From Theory to Practice – A Museum Studies Intern’s Journey

This month Museum Studies Intern Roxanna Richens shares her recent experiences  working with the Performing Arts Collection’s Kristian Fredrikson Design Collection… 

This month, I completed a two week, full time internship, working with the Arts Centre’s Performing Arts Collection. The project I worked on involved cataloguing and re-housing a collection of costume designs by Kristian Fredrikson, which perfectly drew together my Visual Arts background and my interest in costume.

In 2009 I completed a bachelor degree in Visual Arts at Monash University. Here, my practice focussed on identity, in particular the ways in which visual tropes such as Mise-en-scène, costume, props and body language signify character and cultural identity. I created and developed two personal alter egos, which were realised through self-portrait photography and a range of props relating to the character.

At present I am completing a graduate diploma in Museum Studies at Deakin University. It has been so exciting to put the knowledge from this course to practice and to confirm my passion for the industry. I have been especially excited to know that the work I have done makes the Fredrikson designs more accessible to the Arts Centre’s curators and more easily transferred to the online catalogue and therefore more accessible to exhibition and online audiences in future.

The internship has really confirmed for me, the value of Arts Centre Melbourne’s Performing Arts Collection. I have been especially fascinated by the way the different areas of the collection all link together to create an overall picture. For example, I would start with a design and could discover more about the production from the collection of programmes and in some cases I could see how the design was realised or worn on stage in the costume and photograph collections. The costume for one of the Fredrikson designs that I catalogued, ‘A Court Lady’ from The Australian Ballet production of Aurora’s Wedding, 1964 [2003.023.020] is currently on display in the Velik Foyer in Hamer Hall.

Roxanna Richens

Costume design by Kristian Fredrikson for The Nutcracker
Gift of The Australiuan Ballet, 1998