Fashion Flashback: Photography’s Glamour Story Exposed

The glamorous story of Australian fashion photography is revealed in Flashback: 160 years of Australian Fashion Photos, a new travelling display on show at the Lithgow Library Learning Centre from Friday 19 June until Friday 3 July 2015.

Using colourful reproductions, Flashback showcases a number of beautiful and iconic images from the State Library’s unrivalled collection, ranging from mid 19th century hand-coloured portraiture through to contemporary fashion shots.

“Fashion is about more than just the clothes we wear and photography plays a part in influencing our choices. I am sure this exciting exhibition will appeal to both fashionistas and photographers alike,” said Lithgow City Council Mayor Maree Statham.

“Fashion photography wasn’t always about the business of ‘selling’ clothes or showcasing celebrity style, as it is today,” says Margot Riley, curator and State Library fashion expert. “Once, it was a private endeavour with the wealthy posing for photographic portraits wearing their finest clothes to share with family and friends.”

While early portraits of the well-to-do were meant for private/personal use, images of royalty and visiting performers could be bought at local stationers for swapping and collecting, and helped to influence Australian ideas about fashion and glamour. According to Ms Riley, fashion photography began to expand and pick up pace as photographic processes advanced, becoming faster and cheaper, and mass print media exploded in the late 19th century.

“Prior to the mid 1920s there were no professional fashion models in Australia so pretty society girls were used, but from the 1930s local advertising and women’s magazine publishing industries were in full swing using images of fashionably-dressed upper class women, models and screen stars to promote the latest styles,” Ms Riley says.

“Each image in the display represents a significant chapter in Australian fashion photography history, featuring key moments such as the 1950s appearance for David Jones by American Carmen Dell’Orefice. At age 82, she is the world’s oldest working supermodel and is currently appearing in Australian pyjama designer Peter Alexander’s 2013 Mother’s Day campaign.

Providing a range of quality exhibitions and community programs that offer educational and social opportunities for all members of the community is part of Council’s Caring for the Community Strategy in the Community Strategic Plan 2026.

Carmen for DavidJones c1950 flashback



Contact:    Terry O’Keefe

Library Coordinator

Tel: 02 6352 9100

Fax: 02 6351 4364


Flashback curator Margot Riley is available for interviews. For more information, interviews and images, please contact:
Vanessa Bond, Media & Communication Branch, State Library of NSW
(02) 9273 1566, 0411 259 898,