Clothes Encounters

WhitlamWhat would you wear to meet Elvis, the President of the United States or to trek to the South Pole?

Drawing on the Powerhouse Museum’s extensive fashion and dress collection, Clothes Encounters is a new exhibition featuring ten stories exploring the clothing worn or created by a diverse range of Australians, from different eras and walks of life, in response to significant political, creative and social encounters in their lives.

Across four key themes – Political, Romantic, Creative and Intrepid – Clothes Encounters explores the significance of fashion and dress as a key part of cultural communication, an expression of individual and collective identity and a source of creativity, innovation and experimentation.

From the clothing worn by Gough and Margaret Whitlam to meet the Emperor of Japan in 1973, to the day and evening wear chosen by Jill Hickson to host the visit of Diana, the Princess of Wales in 1983, and the daring thigh high split dress worn by Sonia McMahon to meet the President of the United States in 1971.

Romantic encounters include the kangaroo fur micro mini and Merivale blouse ensemble Irene Combe wore to meet Elvis Presley in 1968, Mardi Gras outfits worn by Ron Muncaster and Jacques Streatmans, and an exquisite fine wool and silk wedding dress worn by Hannah Palser Prior on her marriage to Alfred Adlam in 1882.

Creative encounters includes the story of mid 20th Century fashion designer Beril Jents and the designs she created for Sydney socialite Betty McInerney, the work of paper engineer Benja Harney for Australian design label Romance Was Born, and the meeting between model Janice Wakely and British designer Hardy Amies in 1959.

Intrepid encounters explores the story of James ‘Cas’ Castrission and Justin ‘Jonesy’ Jones and the complex array of clothing worn on their record-breaking Antarctic expedition in 2012.

“The exhibition explores fashion and dress’s centrality to our lives and identity and its important role in cultural expression and communication,” said the Museum’s Curator, Fashion and Dress, Glynis Jones.

“It reveals just some of the fascinating stories captured within the Museum’s extraordinary fashion and dress collection.”

Clothes Encounters
Powerhouse Museum, 500 Harris St, Ultimo (Sydney)
Exhibition continues to 4 May 2014
Free entry after general admission

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Prime Minister Gough Whitlam and Margaret Whitlam with their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan at the Imperial Palace, Tokyo on 26 October 1973. National Archives of Australia A6135