The Regent Theatre took a break from its Wicked trade to serve canapés and champagne to bewitched hat aficionados among its gilded and frescoed halls. In low amber lighting, fantastical figures danced and flickered along the walls as the scent of Dior’s Hypnotic Poison on bejeweled grand dames wafted past. Several patrons came decked out in little artistic bijoux of a different order; feathered, veiled and perched atop careful chignons and silvering perms.
In the foyer, 20-odd Australian based milliners displayed their wares; part head architecture, part status symbol, 100% art. Conversations twittered before the official runway; there was a palpable murmur about the impending Spring Racing Carnival and discussions abounded about this year’s inspiration for Melbourne designers. Without a doubt, the Art Deco exhibition hailing from London’s Victoria and Albert Museum has made an indelible impression on Melbourne- something like two hundred thousand people have journeyed to the National Gallery to behold this celebration of opulence and glamour. Unfading style and hedonism (what impending economic crisis?) are champions of Art Deco and this translated to the majority of the Millinery Collection too.
From its opening act where the milliners showed off their flights of fantasy creations to the appearance on the runway of current Miss Australia, Laura Dundovic -the show did not disappoint. Cocktail hour hats; small and of woven classic black jostled with pill boxes, plate-like creations serving up sharp pheasant feathers and somber veils on classic brims. A favourite of mine was a silver hat – if you can call it – which caressed the side of a model’s face like a curved brush stroke before leaping up into a feathered turban with a sequined flower by the ear. Perhaps because of the intoxicating atmosphere of the theatre ‘corridor’ the show was housed in, I envisaged Salome in her operatic rendition- all drapes, dancing and violence and the eastern smoke-curl intricacy of Ballet Russe backdrops circa 1916. Thickened blood reds, purples and burnt orange along with classic black dominated the colour stakes. Like any good piece of art, a millinery masterpiece must ride out a season – true glamour endures.
Writer – Varia Karipoff
Photographer – Christos Pavlidis