Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Fashion flashback in Kyabram

Kyabram Community and Learning is hosting a vintage clothing and memorabilia display.

April 9, 2014 3:46am

The centre of the exhibition is the display of bridal wear from the early 1900s to the ’60s.


There is a lot to see at Kyabram Community and Learning Centre this week.

Last Saturday anyone coming into the car park would first have to stop to admire the classic and vintage cars lined up in their restored glory. The 1927 Chevrolet, 1937 yellow Rolls Royce, the 1946 Vauxhall Wyvern and about 16 other wheeled worthies of yesteryear had a day out.

They were there to support A Step Back in Time, Isobel Harvie’s exhibition of clothing and memorabilia of roughly the same era which continues until Sunday.

‘‘It’s a selection from the early 1900s to the ’60s,” Mrs Harvie said.

‘‘I’ve been preparing for this since the last exhibition. That was going to be the final one, but when it raised over $16000 for Warramunda, we thought we could do it again.’’

Indeed, the first day’s takings reached nearly $2000 and with almost no overheads, all money collected will again go to Warramunda Village.

The items in this show constitute only part of Mrs Harvie’s entire collection and range from day clothes, evening and formal wear, accessories, lingerie, swimsuits, aprons, children’s clothes, doilies, dressing table items, perfume bottles, match boxes, cards, letters, and significant old newspaper cuttings.

However, the centre of the exhibition is the display of bridal wear. Made in lace, net, silk, satin, taffeta, organdy, chiffon, velvet, linen, cotton, and various synthetics, and in colours from white, ivory and pastels to dark green, red and even black, these designs have been lovingly mended, restored and preserved by Isobel as only a true collector could.

A comment in the visitors’ book read: ‘‘What a glorious tribute to your dedication and commitment to the story of fashion.’’

‘‘Yes, it’s still an obsession,’’ Mrs Harvie said.

‘‘My husband Keith says I have to stop. I need to slow down for my health, so I’ve been selling off some individual pieces. Sometimes people donate things, but I keep those for the permanent collection that will go to the town hall.’’

Also going into the town hall collection is Daisy the mannequin, donated by Elide Marson.

First brought to Kyabram in 1938 by Pettifer’s Ladies’ Wear from their Corowa store, Daisy, aged about 100, has new arms and hands Isobel’s son Stacey fashioned out of plaster and steel. In this exhibition, Daisy is modelling a sheer lace overdress dating from the early 1900s, found in a box in the United States, and virtually in shreds.

‘‘It was so fragile it took three hours of every night for six weeks to mend all the holes,’’ Mrs Harvie said.

‘‘My friends said to throw it away, but anything so old is worthy of repair and display. A great study piece for design and textile students.’’

Many of the other antique dresses from the late Victorian, Edwardian and flapper years, as well as several vintage samples from the 1930s onwards, have also come from other parts of the world — the US, United Kingdom and the Philippines.

‘‘Of course some are local, and all of them have a story,” Mrs Harvie said.

‘‘For example, Dorothy Martin’s lovely wedding gown nearly didn’t make it to the ceremony.’’

In 1952, young Dorothy Clark was set to marry her beau, Murray Martin, at the Presbyterian Church in Kyvalley. She had excitedly bought an elegant dress pattern and a few yards of satin brocade from Clegs in Melbourne.

‘‘I had it made by Nan Erwin, a respected local identity known for her fine dressmaking skills,’’ Mrs Martin told the Free Press.

‘‘But she was also known for being late. Half an hour before the service and the dress still hadn’t arrived. I was frantic. Nan must have been working on it right to the last minute.’’

If possible, Mrs Harvie keeps a history of each piece.

People are intrigued by the stories of who owned and wore these things.

They recall similar images in their old photo albums and are reminded of their own memories.

‘‘I think that’s what attracts people to come back for more,’’ she said.

‘‘In fact, a number of our visitors today were here last year, including the Canadian lady from Saskatchewan.’’

Mrs Harvie is grateful to KCLC’s generous offer to once again house the exhibits in five of its rooms.

‘‘The quilt display and the art show are on at the same time, so the centre’s usual activities have been shifted to other spaces,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s been a lot of work for everyone. I want to say thankyou to Nicole Fraser and the KCLC staff, and also Marilyn Danieli, Simone West, Melva Wright, Cheryl Simpson, Cheryl Prideaux, Wendy McKenzie, Hilde Baumann and Lyn Hawes, who all helped set up in lots of ways. And of course not least, my husband Keith. Without his support none of this would happen.’’

As usual, the preparation was immense, but worth it.

‘‘After all, it’s about giving pleasure to others,’’ Mrs Harvie said.


A Step Back in Time will be on show daily from 10am to 4pm at KCLC Lake Rd, Kyabram until Sunday.

Entry is $15 and includes Devonshire tea. All proceeds go to Warramunda Village.

Bookings must be made for large groups of visitors by phoning KCLC on 58520000.

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