Researching post-war fashion

For the Australian Mediatheque
 Martin Ford
Research Intern Laura Clarke

The NFSA recently hosted intern, Laura Clarke, as part of our [Research Fellowships programs. Laura is in her final year of a Bachelor of Arts (New Media Arts) at the Australian National University, and spent 70 hours at the NFSA from March to May this year.

Laura’s internship involved her identifying works in the NFSA’s collection of 1.69 million items for inclusion in the view-on-demand system at the Australian Mediatheque at Federation Square, Melbourne. The Australian Mediatheque is a collaboration between the NFSA and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, and is a great screen culture resource. Where else can you contrast the craziness of Tim Burton’s short films with early episodes of Blind Date?


The early days of Laura’s internship involved her familiarisation with the Collection Access area of the NFSA, learning how to search the collections database and, given the public nature of her project, we also threw in a couple of intensive copyright training sessions.

Laura considered many possible topics for her film collection, and decided to research post-war fashion.  Viewing hours and hours of footage, Laura narrowed her search to a collection of titles with the following description:

'Following the Second World War a positive outlook to change spawned a rebirth in lavish and classically feminine fashion in the western world. This film collection reflects a time of dramatic change between 1945 and 1950 when the fashion world was redefined following wartime hardships. Advancements in distribution technology saw foreign stylistic trends spread from Paris, the UK and the US to Australian catwalks and local fashion designers. From Christian Dior’s groundbreaking ‘New Look’ to Californian-inspired swimwear, this collection demonstrates the foreign influences on post Second World War Australian fashion. More broadly, the films highlight gender roles within post Second World War society, indicating a return to classic femininity following wartime demands on women.'

Laura has highlighted some real gems in the NFSA collection including: a very young and glamorous Dawn Fraser modelling evening wear; and a hilarious staged event celebrating the arrival of the bikini to Australian shores as an officious lifeguard covers up a scantily clad beachgoer, much to the disappointment of onlookers.

Laura kept a blog during her internship; check it out for further details on her related research methodology and entertaining links.

Rights negotiations permitting, this very special collection of films will be launched in the Australian Mediatheque in time for Fashion Week. Stay tuned!