Words by Jill Chivers
Featured Image: Lynn Gough modelling for Myer photographed by Norman Ikin, courtesy of State Library Victoria
An intriguing fashionlogue, Parade: The story of fashion in Australia by Alexandra Joel, brings to life in stunning pictures and well-researched words a take on all things antipodean and sartorial which, honestly, I never knew existed.
With a Foreword by the incomparably stylish Maggie Tabberer, this bicep-building tome starts with The Colonial Years of 1788-1850, and chronicles decade-by-decade up til the date of publication (sadly this is 1998 so we are left with the most recent decades not included).
You honestly have to see it to believe it, looking at these images of Australian style from the 18th and 19th centuries (quite a few from art gallery sources). Who knew?
And don’t get me started on the 20th century photographs, especially the 1980s (“The High Life” – yes we had decadence in Australia in the 1980s like every other Western nation) – I could look at those photographs for hours, they are so alluring. I’ve practically worn the print off this section of the the book!
The 1980s was the decade of my adolescence, and I was really experimenting and exploring about style and what I liked, what I could get away with (I pushed a few boundaries) – I see now that I was trying to get a sense of who I was in that decade. I’m not sure that journey has ever stopped, actually.
Needless to say the photographs in Parade from this period are too stunning for words.
Okay so the truth is, I really bought the book for the pictures, but found myself intrigued by the story of Australian fashion (and style) Alexandra Joel so engagingly tells. And right from the get-go, she hooks us in. The opening words in the Introduction grab your attention: What is Australian fashion? How good is it? Does it exist at all?
I, for one, must freely confess that before I picked up this glorious book, had I been given a few moments to ponder Australian fashion and its history, I would have probably come up with similar questions, right off the bat. There may even be a slightly sardonic raising of the eyebrow to accompany these questions.
Australia is known for many things, and I feel privileged to live in this lucky country… but “stylish” may not be on the list of Top Ten things that immediately leap to mind when you think (and feel) about Aussies, right? Well, that’s what I blindly assumed, before Parade.
Turns out I was wrong.
The Australian fashion scene was happenin’! Every period in Parade showcases something interesting, most of it I wasn’t aware of. It’s a real education.
I found it all dream reading (and watching — did I mention the photographs?!), but it was in the chapter on Eclectic Influences: 1970 – 1980 (one of my other most favourite style decades, possibly because it was the decade of my birth and those style influences, some eclectic others no doubt more mundane, were seeping into my very young pores), that I found this segment leap off the page at me:
A new iconoclastic approach to fashion was provided by the alternative fashion magazine of the 1970s, Rag Times, which was far more audacious than its established competitors. “We’re not going to tell you what you should wear…” stated the publications’ first editorial. It went onto to spell out the philosophy from which avant-garde Australian fashion had begun to take its cue: “The key word to putting clothes on your body is style. Or to be more precise, personal style… Nobody knows better than you what you should wear and how you should look”. — pp223, 225 (emphasis mine)
This piece went onto say that because Rag Times was printed on newspaper (very daring — all the other fashion sources were printed in glossy magazines with months-long lead times), they were able to print the hottest street looks within virtual moments of them being seen on the scene — the “concrete catwalk”.
Shakespeare said it best, there is truly nothing new under the sun. So whilst it wasn’t a new concept that in the 1970s, published style sources were exalting the power of personal style — hey, guess what: there’s a real live person in here – not just a mannequin! — it sure was encouraging to see.
And of course that’s what we’re all about here at 16 Style Types: the power of personal style.
Putting the person back into personal style.
Helping you connect with your style essence so that your style expression is truly authentic.
Stopping the copying, foregoing the formulas, and defining and creating for yourself what true style really is.
With all this style stimulation buzzing around me from regular flipping through Parade, it had me wondering how helpful it could be to pose a key question that each Style Type could well ask themselves when it comes to personal style.
If you put the person back into personal style, what’s the key question most likely to connect you to your style essence – your Style Type?
The Style Pragmatists – Sensing Thinking (ST) Style Types
Appropriate Stylist ISTJ
What is required of my style in this situation?
Effective Stylist ESTJ
How can I employ my style to get me where I need to go here?
Individualistic Stylist ISTP
What’s the simplest style solution here?
Resourceful Stylist ESTP
What’s available here and now to change up my style?
The Style Strategists – iNtuitive Thinking (NT) Style Types
Independent Stylist INTJ
What’s my overall style theme here?
Standout Stylist ENTJ
What’s my style brand for this situation and audience?
Complex Stylist INTP
What’s the logical underlying principle guiding my style choices here?
Enterprising Stylist ENTP
What’s the interesting style challenge or dilemma for me to master here?
The Style Dreamers – iNtuitive Feeling (NF) Style Types
Subtle Stylist INFJ
What’s my style vision I can bring to light here?
Expressive Stylist ENFJ
How can I connect with others and achieve what needs to be done using my style here?
Eclectic Stylist INFP
How can my strong personal values be upheld by my style here?
Charismatic Stylist ENFP
What possibilities could my style ignite here?
The Style Aestheticians – Sensing Feeling (SF) Style Types
Harmonious Stylist ISFJ
How can I gently ‘lean into’ this situation, with these people, using my style?
Charming Stylist ESFJ
What’s a harmonious and attractive style option that will make me feel good here?
Whimsical Stylist ISFP
What’s going to easily flow and give me a quiet sense of style amusement here?
Vivacious Stylist ESFP
What’s going to look good and be a tonne of fun with my style here?
The Passing Parade
My enduring thanks must go to Alexandra Joel for an outstanding resource, full of glorious photographs and intriguing detail — the time and effort that surely must have gone into the research alone are extraordinary and worth much kudos. As a source of stimulation, Parade is a knock-out — from the moment I picked it up to 45 seconds ago when I started typing this second-to-final paragraph, it has provided me with many hours of enjoyment – and I’m sure will continue to do so.
I hope this brief glimpse into the story of Australian fashion has prompted some intriguing reflections for you, too – about your own style and the many influences on it, including those from your youth and your culture.
My very best intention is also that the key questions included in this piece for your Style Type will provide a useful handrail as you travel your authentic style pathway.