The Way We Were in the “Super 70s”

Photo: Town Craft, Sydney (influenced by Yves Saint Laurent)

There’s a flawless exhibition at Rippon Lea Estate in Melbourne. It’s a strut down a memory catwalk for my generation.   The 60s had been an explosion of British music and Mary Quant. We soaked it up, bought the vinyls, read the magazines, covered our bedroom walls with posters of pop stars in sartorial splendor.

By the 70s, the Australian fashion industry had burst forth in a liberty of self-expression. It wasn’t “anything goes”, but “whatever feels fabulous” ….and we were!  From lace to leather, floral and paisley prints, crocheted cuffs and collars, flowing peasant style, beading and embroidery, satin, jersey knit, hot pants and flared jeans. Colours too traversed the palette. Norma Tullo and Prue Acton gave us everything feminine, but I shopped at The House of Merivale with its body shirts and wide hipster belts.  The “Super 70s” exhibition has it all.


Housed in the exquisite Rippon Lea Estate’s 19th Century mansion (completed in 1868), it could be considered not possible to fill those glorious, decorative rooms with fashions from the Seventies and make it authentic, but it works.  There’s lighting, props, soundtracks and tableaux from the era. In a room of unforgettable wallpaper, pottery, deep orange/red artwork framed in thin dark wood, we watched on a familiar television (a handsome piece of four-legged furniture with bakelite knobs) as Jill Clegg, Sally Browne, Adele Palmer and other fashion designers from the era talked about their Seventies world.

I was curious about the Curator, Elizabeth Anya-Petrivna – National Trust of Australia (Victoria), and went looking.  The initial impact is her youth, Elizabeth’s academic studies commenced in the Nineties: Bachelor of Arts, Humanities, Cultural Studies (LaTrobe Univ), Graduate Certificate in Museum Studies, Museum Studies (Deakin Univ) and a PhD, Fashion History (School of Architecture and Design, RMIT).  All her work, degree of research, creative intelligence and what has to be true passion, culminates in an exacting showcase for my generation and all visitors.


Volunteering:  some words about the National Trust volunteers at Rippon Lea Estate whose pleasantness complemented our enjoyment of “Super 70s”.  My friend is recovering from foot surgery, using a walking stick, and struggled along the pathway to the ticket booth, where the welcoming lady suggested we borrow a wheelchair from the tea rooms. Another helpful volunteer directed us via access into the exhibition (we were given a map indicating accessibility around the estate and its gardens) .  Angela, looking splendid, dresses for the occasion. She makes all her clothes – her Mother taught her to be resourceful. Inside, there were other volunteers, seemingly always looking out for any visitor who may have an enquiry or need assistance. One young man told us he works for a major bank where they are asked to spend two working days a year ‘giving back’ to the community.   On the way out, I commented, “They must sprinkle all the volunteers with happiness glitter at the start of each day.”

Photo: Volunteer Angela – dressed for the occasion


“Super 70s” exhibition is open daily 10am–4pm, until November 4


© 2018 Text and photographs Pamela Reid/tPRo 2018