Mavis Ripper (1908-1989) was a designer and portrait painter trained at the National Gallery of Victoria. When she was invited to design for Cinesound Film Productions, it was the opportunity of a lifetime to elevate her garments to a new and glamorous status.
From 1934, Mavis began designing large numbers of costumes for musical theatre productions such as Something Different and Joanna and registered her new company, 'Mavis Ripper Pty Ltd., drapers and general warehousemen, costumiers etc.' at 22 Collins Street.
Mavis's Big Break in Cinema
In January 1936, Sydney-based Cinesound announced that Mavis would design the costumes for It Isn’t Done (1937). Shirley Anne Richards was the young star of the film. The Sydney Morning Herald of 14 October 1936 described the colour of Richards' dress (which was not visible in the black-and-white film) as 'an evening gown of pastel green stiffened net, mounted over gleaming taffeta'.
Mavis took the measurements of each of the actresses while visiting Sydney in pre-production and made canvas mounts to fit each model. The gowns were made in Melbourne then returned to Sydney.
Most challenging for Mavis was designing clothes for Nellie Ferguson in the role of Shirley Anne Richards' mother, Mrs Blaydon, as the outfits had to reflect the poor taste of the newly rich. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph of 14 October 1936, Mavis felt it necessary to clarify that the gowns reflected the fictional character, not her own impeccable style:
'Words fail me when I bring these out… it was one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever done to design these. Floral chiffon blouses with woollen suits and cabbage-like posies on evening frocks…why, they’re pre-war!'