Australian Women's Weekly Fashion Book Launch at the National Library

Saturday, 31 May 2014

What a glorious evening we had last night at the National Library here in Canberra. Women from all over town shimmied up in their retro glad rags - from the 1930s to the 1970s - in celebration of the release of this stunning book--a retrospective of the past 50 years in fashion by the Australian Women's Weekly.

Compiled by ex-Weekly editor Deborah Thomas and fashion industry devotee, Kirstie Clements, this is one stunning book ...

'From the elegant outfits of the 1930s to the Hollywood-inspired evening gowns of the 1950s, from the psychedelic patterns and micro-minis of the 1960s to the bold and bohemian styles of the 1970s, this book charts the evolution of Australian fashion through the pages of Australian icon The Australian Women’s Weekly.

'This trip through The Weekly’s first 50 years reveals how the evolution of fashion in Australia was also a reflection of changing times. Featuring beautiful illustrations from the magazine on every page, this book is for anyone who loves fashion.'

Launched by the face of Canberra Fashfest, ex-international model Belinda Riding, the evening kicked off with bubbles, stunning canapes (that the NLA do so well) and vodka martinis, infused with almond and rose petals.

As we sipped and mingled with the 300-strong crowd in this truly stunning venue, we swooned over some pretty heart-thumping words from guest Charlotte Smith, an American author now living in Australia, and the incredibly fortunate recipient of a goldmine (literally, practically) of a vintage clothing treasure chest.

Charlotte Smith

Charlotte's American godmother, Doris Darnell, made her custodian of more than three thousand fashion pieces (from clothing to shoes and bags and accessories) dating from 1790 to 1995, including originals by Chanel and Dior. Since then, the collection has been added to--mostly in the form of donations--and the collection now comprises eight-and-a-half thousand items.

Heart racing?

Below are just some of the original treasures. You could hear the crowd's hearts beat as one.

We then heard from Deborah Thomas and Kirstie Clements, who spoke of their career and book journey.

Then, after a short break, more cocktails and live piano music, we heard again from Charlotte, whose models paraded more divine treasure.

Here is (the extraordinarily fortunate) Charlotte with her daughter, dressed in a sixties ensemble inspired by Elizabeth Taylor, whose facial bling was inspired by the Women's Weekly Fashion book, as was the styling for all the models.

I snaffled a copy of Charlotte's book, Dreaming of Chanel, a follow-up to Dreaming of Dior, which showcases Grant Cowan's striking fashion illustrations of items from her collection, along with the stories behind each piece. Style Heaven.

We may not be the owners of such exquisite treasure, but my dear girlfriend Sylvia and I simply adore retro fashion. We took a 1960s cue--me early sixties daywear, her late sixties evening--and ramped it up with hair and makeup.

I have simply forgotten how much fun it is to dress up. I was temporarily blinded, firstly by the eyelash glue, then the forest of lashes blocking my view (thank you, Sylv, for driving!), and my already fine hair nearly snapped from the backcombing, but gee, it was fun, and I haven't felt so glamorous in a long time. Eat your heart out, Twiggy!

Guests went home with goodie bags containing the latest issue of the Women's Weekly, along with retro recipe cards, an NLA magazine and what else, but Lindt chocolate? A stylish way to end a very stylish event.

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