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Iconic Australian Fashion Pieces: A Historical Perspective


Historically, the existence of distinctively Australian fashion has been contested. Is it a niche of its own, or do Australians simply take style cues from the rest of the world? 

Of course, the traditionally more laid-back look many Australians enjoy (compared to European or American street style, for example) has become somewhat synonymous with the concept of Australian fashion. This dressed-down sartorial style is, without a doubt, most evident in the warmer climates up north and in the tropics of the Queensland state. 

Despite this stereotype, the more recent work - from the late 1960s and ‘70s to today - of exceptionally talented Australian designers has demonstrated glowing examples of fashion at its finest, with glamorous gowns, spectacular swimwear and casual looks to rival some of the top international catwalk collections. 

Fast forward, and Melbourne Fashion Week has become a shining beacon of Australian haute couture, displaying looks in line with the famous fashion shows of Paris, London and New York.

Let’s explore some of the most iconic Australian styles through time, and discuss why Australian fashion is in a league of its own. 

A Distinctly Australian Glow: Glamorous Gowns of the 1990s to Today

Some of the glitziest, glossiest dress designers Australians have historically been proud to call ours have included:

The 1990s: Alex Perry 

Touted Australia’s most glamorous designer, Sydney style mogul Alex Perry is well known for his over-the-top, opulent designs. From red carpet looks to glamorous gowns for special events, Perry’s bejewelled creations have been worn by the likes of international supermodels Megan Gale and Gigi Hadid, as well as pop culture celebrities such as Rihanna and Kim Kardashian. 

The Early 2000s: Tony Matievski

Priding himself on creating ‘fashion as wearable art’, ingeniously creative designer Tony Matievski is renowned for his unique take on dressing the female form. Celebrated for his architectural-like manipulation of materials to sculpt unique styles, his structural creations are highly sought-after in the world of fashion.

The ‘Noughties’: Aje

Both flirty and feminine, Aje’s it-girl dresses are a wardrobe must-have for any style-savvy Australian fashionista. Bringing a vibe that is simultaneously extravagant and elegant, Aje’s pieces are best known for their statement sleeves, simple structures, and block colour prints. 

2010 and Beyond: Christopher Eber

A relatively new kid on the fashion block, Christopher Eber is a style pioneer in terms of creating clothes that are edgy enough to stand out on the street, while still bringing the glamour a glitzy night out on the town begs for. 

Keeping it Low Key: Casual Looks for Australian Streets from the 1960s to the 2000s

Some of the key Australian designers we have historically loved for casual looks include:

1960s and ‘70s: Carla Zampatti 

Symbolising self-proclaimed ‘contemporary glamour and sophisticated ease’, Carla Zampatti is an iconic Australian designer who has left marks on the international fashion scene since the late 1960s. From structured dresses to tailored two-pieces, there’s no wonder we have, since then, had pride in calling her one of our own. 

1980s to Early 2000s: Kookai

Renowned for their understated, simple elegance, Kookai pieces have become fashion staples for many young Australians.

Nineties to Noughties, and Now: Sass & Bide

Revered for their ready-to-wear pieces in leather and denim, Australian label Sass & Bide have continued to make their mark on the international scene. Known for their strong, structured silhouettes embellished with graphic prints, Sass & Bide have pioneered smart-casual Australian streetwear style into the Noughties and beyond. 

Beach to Bar Culture: Australian Swim and Beachwear

With beach culture a way of life in many Australian cities, it makes perfect sense that our dress code reflects that. Some of the most iconic Australian swimwear designers throughout our fashion history have included: 

1970s: Seafolly

Patterned, colourful and brightly-hued, Seafolly swimwear brings the fun to Summer style. From on-trend high-waisted bikinis to timelessly flattering one-pieces, Seafolly has become a go-to for Australian beach lovers. 

1990s: Zimmerman

Decidedly high-fashion swimwear, Zimmerman puts the hot in haute couture. From luxe poolside vibes to beach bar style, the internationally in-demand swimwear pieces have enabled the labels’ founders to build a global fashion empire from their humble beginnings on the streets of Sydney in the early 1990s.

Admittedly, the world of Australian fashion hasn’t always been celebrated for its style stakes. But with an increasing number of Australian designers having made their mark on the international stage, we are leaps and bounds from our historically humble beginnings. 

So, what’s next for Australian fashion? Only time will tell.

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