MARNY Javornik can still remember some of outfits her mother wore in the 1970s. One in particular sticks in her head: a black maxi dress with a cowl hood and a silver hand-painted drawing of an elegant woman down the side.
“She wore the most fabulous clothes!” she says of her mother, Ann Dixon. “I don’t remember any of my friends’ mothers dressing like her.”
A teacher and librarian, Ann regularly did the rounds of the Melbourne op shops, where in those more innocent (pre-eBay) days she could often pick up boutique garments among the Target cast-offs.
In the late 1980s, her own fashion purchases gradually turned into a passion for collecting. First it was Australian and international designer labels, and later it morphed into fashion from different eras. She bought at op shops, recycle boutiques and, more recently, online.
Over the decades she collected over 1500 items and accessories including fans, muffs, jewellery, handbags, hats, gloves and stockings.
A portion of the Bygone Days Fashion Collection (1820-1940) will be shown at the Wonthaggi Town Hall over the holidays in an exhibition called Couture Vintage Fashion. It includes clothes and gowns by Dior, Chanel, Norman Hartnell, Jean Patou, Valentino, Emmanuel, Armani, Laura Ashley, Lagerfeld, Lanvin, Versace. Jaeger, and Dolce & Gabbana, as well as some Australian designers such as Prue Acton.
Marny says the exhibition is a taste of what might be possible as Mrs Dixon has offered to donate her entire collection, valued at around $175,000, to Bass Coast Shire.
At the time the council decided it did not have the exhibition space or expertise to do justice to the collection but recent events – including the announcement that Wonthaggi Secondary College’s senior campus would move in 2019 – have given fresh impetus to the long-held dream of a regional art gallery on the site.
If it eventuates, says Marny, it would be a perfect home for the collection, alongside the Robert Smith Collection and the council’s own art collection.
She believes a historical fashion collection of this calibre offers a unique chance to attract visitors to the region, as has been amply demonstrated by the success of the Bendigo Art Gallery’s fashion exhibitions.
Couture Vintage Fashion Exhibition: Ann Dixon’s collection of historical fashion, Wonthaggi Town Hall, January 3-21, 10am-4pm daily between. Entry is free. For more information, visit Wonthaggi Fashion.