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From the elegant outfits of the 1930s to the Hollywood-inspired evening gowns of the 1950s, from the psychedelic patterns and micro-minis of the 1960s to the bold and bohemian styles of the 1970s, this book charts the evolution of Australian fashion through the pages of Australian icon The Australian Women's Weekly.
This trip through The Weekly's first 50 years reveals how the evolution of fashion in Australia was also a reflection of changing times. Featuring beautiful illustrations from the magazine on every page, this book is for anyone who loves fashion.
While largely a nostalgic survey of women's fashion as reflected in The Australian Women's Weekly from the 1930s to the 1970s, Fashion: The First 50 Years also captures women's changing roles - the way fashion became more practical as women took over men's jobs during the war, the emphasis on femininity in the post-war era as women became homemakers again, and the power dressing of the late 1970s as women became more prominent in the corporate world. The colour artwork from the 1930s and 1940s - innovative cover designs using collage or stylised paintings vivid with patterns reminiscent of Matisse - show the magazine to have been at its most aesthetically adventurous in these early decades. The text provides some social context, but the well-chosen images steal the show.
Featuring beautiful illustrations from the magazine on every page, this book is for anyone who loves fashion.
A treasure trove of beautifully crafted, hand-illustrated Australian Women's Weekly fashion covers, from the Wallis Simpson-influenced 1930s to the Marilyn Monroe hair and make-up imitation of the 1950s, and more. When "dolly bird" gave way to "bohemian babe" in the liberated 1970s, local designers, such as Carla Zampatti, became all the rage, alongside seriously kitsch cover shoots. A nostalgic trip down this magazine's memory lane form former Editor-In-Chief Deborah Thomas and former Vogue editor Kirstie Clements.
From the elegant outfits of the 1930s to the Hollywood-inspired evening gowns of the 1950s, from the psychedelic patterns and micro-minis of the 1960s to the bold and bohemian styles of the 1970s, this book charts the evolution of Australian fashion through the pages of Australian icon The Australian Women's Weekly. This trip through The Weekly's first 50 years reveals how the evolution of fashion in Australia was also a reflection of changing times. Featuring beautiful illustrations from the magazine on every page, this book is for anyone who loves fashion.
The Australian Women's Weekly is a cultural pillar and a new book chronicles the magazine's influence on our fashion and daily lives
The covers of The Australian Women's Weekly are a mirror of our changing times and cultural obsessions. For decades The Weekly has influenced the way women dress, what they serve for dinner and how they style their hair.
More than that, The Weekly has engaged with significant news and current affairs and its covers have included the first men on the moon, the opening of the Sydney Opera House, Jean Shrimpton's head turning mini-skirt and the Australian visit by The Beatles. Coronations, royal babies, royal visits and the life and death of Princess Diana are still mainstays.
Together they provide a complete record of Australian fashion from European haute couture to the suburban homemakers of the 1950s, the androgynous Brit-fashion of the '60s and the flowering of hippie chic.
Two events are celebrating the role of the Women's Weekly as an icon of popular culture.
The National Library of Australia has digitised the first 50 years of the magazine of how Australians looked, behaved and lived between 1933 and 1982.
Secondly, a beautifully illustrated book dedicated to 50 years of Women's Weekly fashion has been curated by one of its most successful magazine editors, Deborah Thomas. She is joined as co-author by Kirstie Clements, the former editor-in-chief of Vogue Australia who brings her fashion expertise to the mix.
"Writing the book became a labour of love for us both, as we pored over the wonderful illustrations, nostalgic ads and glamorous fashion photographs featured in early editions of The Weekly," Thomas says.
The exquisite illustrations cover everything from Dior's post-war New Look with its lavish fabrics and nipped-in waists, to psychedelic fashion in the 1960s (although The Weekly was reluctant to let go of its conservative ideal of the happy housewife) to screen siren Sophia Loren in a bright green wig and patterns showing how to knit your own Missoni hat and scarf.
Deborah Thomas loves page 115 of her new book. It shows The Australian Women's Weekly cover from November 24, 1971, when the magazine was still a weekly.
‘‘Enchanting party dress to crochet, directions page 38'' says the headline, next to a glossy-lipped model wearing a fluffy, woollen, multi-tiered dress in white. It looks like a cross between a wedding cake and a toilet-roll dolly.
"How to macrame your own ‘in' things," says another headline. All this and more for the cover price of 20 cents.
A former editor of The Weekly, from 1999 to 2008, Thomas was asked by the National Library of Australia to write a book, The Australian Women's Weekly Fashion: The First 50Years, covering looks from the 1930s to 1980, as featured in the pages of the iconic women's magazine. Thomas was thrilled to oblige, but enlisted some help from a friend, former Vogue editor Kirstie Clements.
‘‘I know The Weekly - I was there for nine years - and I'm quite good at the socio-political influences on fashion,'' says Thomas, now public affairs director at Bauer Media, the magazine's publisher. She felt Clements could add a deeper understanding of fashion history. ‘‘And it would make it a fun project because she's a great girlfriend, so we turned it into Saturday mornings sitting at the dining room table with our laptops, chatting and laughing.''
What struck them, going through the images from the past, was how glamorous the clothes look in retrospect. ‘‘It was fashion to inspire,'' says Thomas. She is particularly enamoured of late 1960s headwear. ‘‘When you had a bad hair day, there was nothing better than a turban, or to wrap a scarf around your head.''
Most of the illustrations and photos in the book come from Weekly covers. They were carefully chosen to evoke each era, the important fashions and trends, from the first two-piece swimsuits to wartime frugality, Christian Dior's New Look to crocheted party dresses. The covers also mark important events - Queen Elizabeth II's coronation, the Beatles in Australia, men on the moon, the opening of the Sydney Opera House.
It is also interesting to note the magazine's radical nature at different times. ‘‘Equal Social Rights for SEXES - Mrs Little john Outlines Big Issues To Be Fought For'' reads one headline of the inaugural Weekly on June 10, 1933, but the main story on the front page is ‘‘What Smart Sydney Women are Wearing'', complete with ‘‘camera pictures''. This was very unusual for the time, when fashion was mostly represented with illustrations.
Australian women loved the new title, which by 1979 was selling 400,000 copies a week (it remains the country's highest selling monthly magazine). It seems odd now, but the first editor was a man,George Warnecke. ‘‘No one would have blinked at the time,'' says Thomas.
Australia's first accredited female war correspondent worked at The Weekly. Another conducted a ground-breaking interview with Germaine Greer in the 1970s. ‘‘It was very indicative of the different editors and journalists who worked there,'' Thomas says, of the magazine's swings from cutting edge to conservative.
Thomas was The Weekly's second longest-serving editor, but Esme Fenston holds the record, from 1950 to 1972. ‘‘For that kind of reign during so much change, think of what she dealt with during her time,'' Thomas marvels.
This included irate proprietors. Frank Packer, who launched the magazine, took a great interest in its progress. He started The Australian Women's Weekly Portrait Prize, which William Dobell won in 1957 with a painting of Helena Rubinstein, and his wife, Gretel, introduced the magazine's Dream Home competition, offering readers the chance to win a house.
Packer did not always appreciate the latest fashion trends. He once marched a young editorial assistant wearing hot pants into Fenston's office ‘‘Are these hot pants?'' he demanded, outraged. ‘‘Yes, don't they look sweet?'' Fenston replied.
Thomas admits it would be harder to pick fashion trends from more recent decades. ‘‘It's less obvious now because up to the '80s, people did slavishly follow what was in fashion, whether it suited you or not. You wore colours and styles that didn't suit you, because that was the fashion. As we've moved through the '80s into the '90s and beyond, women have gone, ‘Nope, I want clothes that suit me'. You do see some overall trends, but different designers have different fashions for different clients. It's a whole different approach.''
This fashion extravaganza shows that all those years you thought the Australian Women's Weekly was just a daggy mag your mum read at the hairdressers, it was capturing the best fashion trends of the 20th century. Thomas and Clements have dressed up every page in a way that demands attention, just the way Mary Quant and Yves Saint Laurent did on the catwalk. Perfect for Mum's Day.
Verdict: top vintage.
The first issue of the Australian Women's Weekly was published in May 1933 as a black and white 44-page tabloid newspaper. Some of the first issues show wonderful monochrome shots of women in Hollywood movie star style poses showing what the fashionable Aussie woman was wearing.
Despite the Depression, the magazine found an eager market of women who had been used to turning to the back sections of newspapers for the fashion news. Colour was soon introduced and the publication went from strength to strength, becoming one of the major arbiters of fashion in this country.
One of the most interesting things is the changes in photography styles across the years and also how the magazines used to make extensive use of artwork rather than photographs. One thing that hasn't changed is the choice of thin, leggy models, although this book cuts off at the '70s before the more sinister era of digital manipulation.
This fashion extravaganza shows that all those years you thought the Australian Women's Weekly was just a daggy mag your mum read at the hairdressers, it was capturing the best fashion trends of the 20th century. Thomas and Clements have dressed up every page in a way that demands attention, just the way Mary Quant and Yves Saint Laurent did on the catwalk. This really is a top-vintage book. One to savour at your leisure.
'True style is timeless' for Debra Thomas, charting the evolution of Australian style was a joy.
Deborah Thomas knows fashion. From walking the runways for Givenchy and Balenciaga in Paris to editing a host of mags, including Elle, and helming The Australian Women's Weekly as editor-in-chief, there isn't a trend or fad she hasn't seen before.
"Fashion has always reinvented itself or drawn from other influences," says Deborah, 57. "I think we do draw strongly on the past. But everybody's asking, 'Is it because we've run out of ideas? Or were the originals just so great?'"
Fashion down the ages
With her background, who better to be tasked with creating a book charting Australia's style evolution. She and her friend and ex- Vogue editor Kirstie Clements teamed up for The Australian Women's Weekly Fashion: The First 50 Years, chronicling the 1930s to the 70s.
"We worked on it every Saturday at my house," Deborah says. "Just two laptops, lots of coffee and lots of laughs."
Poring over the archives, Deborah's hard-pressed to pick a favourite decade. While the swinging '60s holds a special place in her heart, the romance of the '30s has really captured her imagination.
"I love that old era," she says. "Style-wise, I've always loved Katharine Hepburn with those cropped jackets and the mannish suits."
Once soley within the reach of the affluent, fashion experienced a major shift in the '60s and 70s.
"Women who grew up [then] made a lot of their clothes," Deborah says. "My mother made my first formal dress. One of my presents when I was 13 was a Singer sewing course, so it wasn't unusual for me to have a party coming up, and buy my fabric and pattern to make a dress to wear.
"Every season we used to have a 'look'... People didn't go outside of what was put in front of them," she says.
"These days it's not about designers or retailers telling you what to wear, it's about what suits you. Sure there are trends that come across, but the range is so broad you can find a designer with a look that you want."
Always in vogue
Australian women have forged their own identity over the decades, which is in part a reflection of the reach of our designers, including Kit Willow and Carla Zampatti.
"Our style is very relaxed, practical," Deborah says. "But there's a huge difference in style from one city to another. I'm from Melbourne and [women there] dress completely differently to Sydney women. The same for Queensland. I remember going there, wearing black and feeling like a crow because it's not the place for black!"
Deborah credits her impeccable sense of style to her mother, Lola.
"I love seeing older women dress beautifully," Deborah says. "My mother is 88 and she loves fashion! She even has leopard-print shoes. No matter the occasion she'll be in a beautiful new outfit. There's no age limit on fashion."