Iconic Power Dressing on Display in Canberra

Media Release

26 September 2013

Sharp, square-shouldered suits from the iconic 1980s power dressing era matched with big hair are back in Canberra.

'A Capital Collection ñ Our History in Fashion' opens today at the National Capital Exhibition. It is the fourth in a series of exhibitions displaying the fashions of the day at significant events in Canberra's history.

National Capital Authority (NCA) Acting Chief Executive Mr Andrew Smith today joined Department of Parliamentary Services Secretary Ms Carol Mills in opening a temporary display at the National Capital Exhibition.

Mr Smith said 'A Capital Collection' depicts snapshots of Canberra's history through a series of milestones events.

'One of the NCA's roles is to inform and educate Australians about the significance of Canberra as the National Capital. A Capital Collection tells part of that story in a new way,' Mr Smith said.

'The exhibition, which opened today, shows the fashions worn to the opening of Parliament House in 1988,' he said.

'Parliamentary Services has lent an original staff uniform worn at the opening event in 1988 for display in the exhibition,' said Ms Mills.

'On 9 May 1988, Australia's Parliament House was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II. It is regarded as one of Australia's most acclaimed buildings and is the meeting place of our nation,' Ms Mills added.

'Fashion history shows that Australia is not isolated from this very distinctive look, with shoulder pads, and certainly our visitors' guides very much represented that look too.

'This exhibition provides an insight into the social history of Canberra. It was an important day for the nation, and what dignitaries and visitors who attended the event wore, signified the cultural and social importance of the opening of the new Parliament House'.

Exhibition items include:

  • Parliament House staff uniform worn at the opening in 1988
  • An original Ranger Guide uniform with badges, skirt, uniform beret, scarf and belt c. 1985
  • Woman's two piece Maggie Shepherd suit c.1988 (various polyesters, organza, velvet trim, plastic beads), fur felt pillbox hat c.1988 and patent leather shoulder bag c.1986
  • Woman's formal Prue Acton suit c.1987, shallow crowned, fine straw and grosgrain ribbon hat c.1988, Footrest suede leather, grosgrain ribbon court shoes c.1985, Cellini leather clutch handbag c.1988 and gloves c.1985
  • Original memorabilia to the event and community photographs ñ commemorative booklet, entrÈe card opening ceremony, invitation to the opening ceremony, parking permit and event program.

The exhibition also includes a collection of First Day Covers, commemorating the opening of Parliament House and the birthday of Queen Elizabeth II. Some of these were stamped at the provisional and new Parliament House and in Corowa in NSW, which is considered the 'Birthplace of Federation'. The laying of the commemoration stone in 1913, opening of the provisional Parliament House in 1927 and the inauguration of Lake Burley Griffin in 1964 have been displayed earlier in the year.

'A Capital Collection ñ Our History in Fashion' is on display at the National Capital Exhibition, Barrine Drive, Commonwealth Park until 16 December 2013. The exhibition is open 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 4pm weekends (closed public holidays except Canberra Day and Australia Day). Entry is free.