On display at the Yarra Ranges Regional Museum, Emporium explores the rise of the department store, ready-to-wear clothing and advertising in the mid-20th century. Department stores opened across Australia in response to a rise in wealth, the evolution of shopping as a pastime and the changing role of women from homemaker to active consumer.
This iconic exhibition features merchandise and picture-based advertising material from Albury’s iconic, Abikhair’s Emporium – established by Syrian immigrants Saad Milham Abikhair and his wife Shefia in 1928. The store owners and operators, Saad and Betro Abikhair, immigrated from Mount Lebanon and opened their Swift Street store in Albury in 1928 after arriving in 1895 as hawkers from Melbourne.
At first, Abikhair relied on Melbourne manufacturers and wholesalers but eventually began importing and supplying goods himself. Goods on offer included girdles, stockings, clothing, household supplies, beauty supplies, toiletry supplies, sewing supplies (haberdashery), shoes, hats – and much more in the style of the emporium.
The purpose-built store had two entries, one each for men and women, which navigated patrons to appropriate sections of the store. As it was considered inappropriate for men to see, let alone purchase, women’s ‘unmentionables’, the entry for men took them through sporting goods and men’s supplies. Women were directed past the women’s, children’s, men’s and household supplies counters before reaching the register.
When the Abikhair store was closing in the mid 1990’s, Albury City Council was fortunate enough to acquire the complete merchandise and stock from the flagship Albury store for the collection. This included original merchandise and advertising material from previous decades, especially the 1950’s.
This collection celebrates the 1950’s beauty myth as stylised 1950’s women promote toiletries, women’s garments and even vacuum cleaners! This stunning marketing material demonstrates the context of the 1950s woman and the society they lived in.
Yarra Ranges Regional Museum, 35-37 Castella Street, Lilydale
Exhibition: 23 July – 23 October 2016
For more information, visit: www.yarraranges.vic.gov.au for details.