Carriage dress (c. 1830)
silk (Gros de Naples), cotton (lace), metal (buckle, hooks and eyes)
153.0 cm (centre back) 34.0 cm (waist, flat)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
The Schofield Collection. Purchased with the assistance of a special grant from the Government of Victoria, 1974
Fashion Detective takes a selection of miscellaneous garments and accessories as the starting point for a series of investigations. Using material evidence and commissioned fictions as alternate interpretative strategies, the exhibition is an encounter with the art of detection.
Any museum archive contains a large number of works which remain unattributed – makers unknown. Anonymous and sometimes inscrutable, these objects have the capacity to incite our curiosity at a time when the world is ordered by brands and logos. Within fashion especially, the contrast between today’s superstar couturiers and global luxury labels and the nameless dressmakers and tailors of earlier centuries, could not be greater.
From fakes and forgeries to poisonous dyes, concealed clues and mysterious marks to missing persons, Fashion Detective offers a number of cases for close examination. Each suggests a specific path of analysis that encourages us to think differently about what we see and what we know.
Scrutinising fragments of information, Fashion Detective also puts some of Australia’s best crime writers on the case. Speculating on the evidence at hand, a series of new short fictions based around the works on display will introduce plots, characters and narrative to the exhibition in order to reveal fashion’s countless contexts.
Featuring approximately 60 garments and accessories Fashion Detective juxtaposes the testimony of curators, conservators and writers, and acknowledges the interdependence of story and object as well as the public fascination with the social life of clothes.