A week of film and costume to celebrate Aussie movies

'Red Satin' Dress designed by Catherine Martin and Angus Strathie worn by Nicole Kidman as Satine for the movie Moulin Rouge! 2001. Photo: Dion Georgopoulos

'Red Satin' Dress designed by Catherine Martin and Angus Strathie worn by Nicole Kidman as Satine for the movie Moulin Rouge! 2001. Photo: Dion Georgopoulos

Sequinned flapper dress worn by Marie Lorraine as Paula Marsh, the dress had been bought in paris in 1925 by her close school friend Kathleen Coen. Marie Lorraine borrowed the dress for the movie The Cheaters 1930. Photo: Dion Georgopoulos

Sequinned flapper dress worn by Marie Lorraine as Paula Marsh, the dress had been bought in paris in 1925 by her close school friend Kathleen Coen. Marie Lorraine borrowed the dress for the movie The Cheaters 1930. Photo: Dion Georgopoulos

This delicate white dress was deisnged by Judith Dorsman worn by Anne-Louise Lambert as Miranda for the movie Picnic at Hanging Rock 1975. Photo: Dion Georgopoulos

This delicate white dress was deisnged by Judith Dorsman worn by Anne-Louise Lambert as Miranda for the movie Picnic at Hanging Rock 1975. Photo: Dion Georgopoulos

A Week of Film and Costume. National Film and Sound Archive, nfsa.gov.au/events/fashion-and-costume-week. Starstruck. National Portrait Gallery. starstruck.gov.au. Charges apply to most events. See websites for full details.

The National Film and Sound Archive has 2.8 million items in its collection including more than 380 costumes. A few of the latter, from some of the best-known Australian movies are on display are part of the Starstruck: Australian Movie Portraits exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, which is hosting the collection of film stills and costumes in partnership with the National Film and Sound Archive. It's on until March 4 before going on a national tour.

From January 6 to 14 the National Film and Sound Archive is running Costume Week, a complementary season of events, including film screenings - many with introductions - and lectures programmed by the archive's Cris Kennedy.

Seeing the clothes up close gives a three-dimensional, tangible reality to them and being able to compare them to blown-up stills from the movies in which they featured brings back fond memories of the scenes and movies in which they featured - funny, dramatic, romantic, musical or sometimes a combination.

You can see two of the eye-catching Oscar-winning costumes designed by Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner from The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, : the unique thong dress worn by Hugo Weaving as drag queen Mitzi Del Bra that cost all of $17 to make and the green sequinned evening dress in which he danced in the desert.

"I'm always excited when walking around the collection and you see these beautiful iconic works like the amazing dresses from Priscilla - they're so iconically Australiam and just so tangible."

While there are millions of items in the NFSA collection, he says, most of them are films locked away but these are things you can physically see and appreciate.

"They're just so gorgeous."

Another Oscar winner is the red satin dress worn by Nicole Kidman as Satine in Moulin Rouge! (2001) designed by Catherine Martin and Angus Strathie. A screening of the film on January 10 will be preceded by a discussion between NFSA curator Nathan Smith and film colourist Olivier Fontenay, whose credits include Lion, Tracks and Holding the Man, and on the work of the director of photography and the colourist in helping to bring the vision of the director to life.

Also on display is the white dress worn by Helen Morse as Sybylla in the My Brilliant Career (1979), designed by Oscar nominee Anna Senior, who in recent years has designed and coordinated costumes for a number of Canberra theatrical productions including this year's Strictly Ballroom: the Musical from Canberra Philharmonic Society.

"There are 10 films and a couple of extra talks including a lecture by Canberra Times music critic Jenny Gall on archetypes in fashion, how costumes help create character," Kennedy says. That will be on January 6.

On January 9, Senior will introduce a screening of another period film she worked on, the coming-of-age story The Getting of Wisdom (1977) based on the novel by Henry Handel Richardson.

The earliest of the costumes on display is one bought in Paris in 1925 and worn by Marie Lorraine. in The Cheaters (1929), a silent crime drama directed by Paulette McDonagh. A world premiere screening of screening of the restored version of the film at the NFSA on January 14 will be introduced by curator Tara Marynowsky. She will discuss the restoration of the film and the McDonagh sisters - Paulette, Phyllis and Isabella - who were pioneers in the early days of the Australian film industry. Kennedy says gender roles were not as rigidly defined then as they would later be and in those flourishing days of the Australian film industry the McDonaghs made several feature films and short documentaries until their film careers ended in the 1930s.

Kennedy says the film was originally silent but with the coming of sound some dialogue was recorded and a few cinemas played it as a semi-talkie. The archive has restored the silent version.

"For me, one of the most special items in the NFSA collection is the 'Miranda' dress from Picnic at Hanging Rock," Kennedy says.

The white Victorian-style dress worn by Anne Lambert in the mysterious 1975 film, designed by Judith Dorsman, is also on show and Kennedy has paired the Peter Weir film, based on Joan Lindsay's novel, with another literary adaptation, The Dressmaker (2015), on January 11. The latter had costumes designed by Margot Wilson and Marion Boyce

On January 8, Dorsman will introduce another film for which she designed the costumes, Caddie, (1976). It stars Helen Morse as a Sydney woman forced to work as a barmaid to support herself and her two children during the Depression after her husband walks out. Kennedy says he is sure the subject of Picnic at Hanging Rock will arise in that talk, too.

A period film of a different kind comes on January 13 with Dogs in Space (1986), set in the Melbourne punk scene in 1978.

"Director Richard Lowenstein and producer Glenys Rowe will be coming down for that," Kennedy says.

"They'll be talking about a range of topics including [star] Michael Hutchence and the atmosphere they created."

Given the film was set in what was then the recent past, Kennedy reckons a lot of time was probably spent combing op shops to get the right clothes and materials to get the right 1970s look for the film.

At the National Portrait Gallery on January 12 at 3pm there will be a screening of Baz Luhrmann's film Strictly Ballroom (1992), a film with some memorable costume designs especially for the ballroom dancers as well as colourful characters, quotable dialogue and some catchy songs. That night, Shall We Dance? features a "Tawdry Tales" after-dark tour of the exhibition from 5pm inspired by Baz Luhrmann with live ballroom dancing and a soundtrack to get your feet moving too.

Back at the NFSA, two other musicals are screening in the season, a restoration of Starstruck (1982), about two teenagers trying to break into the music industry, on January 6, and The Sapphires (2012), about the real-life Indigenous singing group, on January 7.

Also on from January 6 to 14 at the archive is another exhibition of clothing with a more serious theme. Dressing Australia, the Museum of Australian Costume, has teamed up with vintage clothing sellers to present Women of Empire 1914-1919,an exhibition of vintage clothes worn by nurses, campaigners, doctors, and other women in World War I. There will be a jumble sale on January 14.

This story A week of film and costume to celebrate Aussie movies first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.