Melbourne, Melbourne Fashion Festival Cultural Program 2015

Talk & Tours: Fashion in literature – Out loud, Melbourne Fashion Festival Cultural Program 2015

0 Comments 21 February 2015

Lise Rodgers likes to tell stories. On Thursday morning, she told us three.

Nestled within the decorated walls of the Johnston Collection, with teacups in hand and ears eager, a group of unlikely listeners saw three ladies of literature come to life.

Rendered only by the voice of Rodgers, the presence of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Daisy Buchanan, Evelyn Waugh’s Lady Julia  and Patrick White’s Dorothy Hunter permeated the room. Why? To focus on the role of literature and how it communicates fashion to the world.

As part of the 2015 VAMFF Cultural Programs “Talks and Tours” section, Fashion in Literature – Out Loud concentrates on the importance of style and imagery in bringing particular fictional creations to life.

For years we have relied on literature to help us read an outfit. Glossy fashion magazines update us on new season trends, and a plethora of style encyclopedias, ranging on topics from couture to Chanel, fill the shelves at libraries and bookstores alike.

But perched in front of the well-read crowd with manuscript in hand, Rodgers, a celebrated actor and audio narrator, reminded us of how easy it is to become enthralled by the lives of those existing purely on the page.

From the deep southern twang of J. Gatsby, to the tongue-in-cheek humour of White’s protagonist Dorothy Hunter, Rodgers’ accented renditions took the crowd on a verbal tour of three visually evocative eras, re-awakening within many a forgotten childhood luxury of being read to aloud.

With her punctuated voice swirling around the dainty room, we had to remind ourselves we weren’t actually couched within the roaring ‘20s, or pre-war England, witnessing the gangly Lady Julia beg Charles to take her hand.

Did you know in the original Gatsby, Daisy has dark hair? Tiny details – the crisp white of a servants sleeve, the indifferent tangle of pearls and chiffon lying on the floor – these are the things that make our favourite characters the complex beings they are.

And, as Rodgers’ readings highlighted, not only do such visual intimacies raise a character from two-dimensional to three, they are also imbued with wider social, political and aesthetic meaning. A snapshot of history, so to say, captured purely through prose and clothes.

The first of a number of intellectual discussions taking place as part of “Talks and Tours”, for a dose of fashion you can’t get on the runway, Fashion in Literature – Out Loud was an excellent reminder that for something so visual, style becomes incredibly influential through the power of the written word.

As Virginia Woolf once wrote, “… clothes change our view of the world and the world’s view of us.” Style resonates with the reader, just as Rodgers captivating performance and passion for storytelling resonates with us.

If you enjoy appreciating fashion from both an intellectual and interactive perspective, the “Talks and Tours” category has only just begun. For a full list of discussions, ranging from historical to contemporary matter, click here.

Mia Farrow as Daisy Buchanan in Jack Clayton's The Great Gatsby, 1974.

Mia Farrow as Daisy Buchanan in Jack Clayton’s The Great Gatsby, 1974.

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