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Memento : Issue 35
NAA: B2549, Golden Ram awards 1971 -- Fashion photos and sketches As a student of history, to be invited to take part in a National Archives' project is about as happy an assignment as one could wish for. To be specifically directed to the fashion component of its vast photographic collection is an added thrill, even though it's the socio-cultural context of the pictures which is of deeper interest. Almost as if made to order, the National Archives' collection of fashion photographs offers up images almost exclusively from the 1960s and '70s -- that slice of recent history of special interest to me for its impact on all things social, cultural and even political we still live with today. These were the years of revolution, and pop music was the catalyst. For those in tune with the emerging vibe, clothes more than ever became an indicator of individual sensibility. Youth culture asserted itself in a way which changed the world, familiar and comfortable up to that point. Beyond the sights and sounds, this new consciousness found free expression in attitudes that challenged convention. Radical change in the way we viewed things and the way we lived was not only possible and desirable but was nothing less than liberation from a grey predictability. Australia was, of course, not immune from the sweep of these winds. While the pictures in Strike a Pose appear to speak from a very Photo: Courtesy of SBS [above] Lee Lin Chin. [right] Tailored suits for men designed by Mike Treloar for the Australian Wool Board's Golden Ram Awards, 1971. [opposite page left] Fashion on the streets of Kings Cross in 1970. [opposite page right] Despite rumours of its death, the mini skirt (with matching duffle coat) was still the winter fashion look for teens in 1972. Liberation from a grey predictability: Lee Lin Chin on Strike a Pose different time upon initial viewing, they also convey a sense of things to come, not least of which are the first stirrings of 'Australian fashion', part of a self-consciousness of a distinct identity taking its place in the world. These photographs may have been taken for trade and commercial reasons, mostly by anonymous government photographers, but they certainly record and reflect both a new boldness in approaching how we dressed, while retaining and re-working what was inherited from previous eras. These were the early days of pant-suits for women, mini skirts and dresses matched up with symbols of modernity (such as white knee-high vinyl boots, space and op-art inspired prints), and of menswear throwing off inoffensive shades for bright colours, checks and prints. Simultaneously, fair-isle sweaters, satin gowns and matching accessories still had their place -- but not for much longer. Rules were about to be seriously broken and fashion to be widely accessible. How one chose to express oneself through clothes was limited only by one's imagination. These then were crucial years spanning one era and the next. In these images we can 8 NATIONAL ARCHIVES OF AUSTRALIA