La Belle Époque

Group photo

From left to right: Laura Stewart, Christie Milton, Robyn Murphy, Jessica Allison, Inger Sheil, Anna Porcaro, Tara Mannell and Stephanie Wigens
Photographer Nicole Cama, ANMM

Portrait of model wearing black evening gown

Anna Porcaro modelling a black evening gown made by Rebecca Smith
Photographer Nicole Cama, ANMM

On Wednesday night, the museum hosted its answer to this year’s History Week theme – Titanic Threads. And what a spectacular night it turned out to be! For two hours, guests were transported back to the fashions of the Titanic era. Beaded hats, pretty lace and hobbled skirts paraded across the carpet, a sight not usually witnessed in the Tasman Light Gallery. There were gowns made in every fabric including velvet and silk and one outfit composed of tablecloths dyed in different shades of green. Each outfit was sewed and threaded to perfection to create a vibrant festival of colour that made us all wish we lived in the ‘Beautiful era’ for just one day. Continue reading

Titanic Threads

Hobble skirts, Kimono-style dresses, tea gowns and opulently beaded dinner dresses…..

What is the Belle Epoque?

How is it different to the Edwardian Era?

Can you read a piece of antique fashion like a historical document?

And just how does a costume designer on the set of a movie like Titanic decide what to dress the actors in to reflect authentic period fashion with just the right amount of Hollywood-style creative license?

We are just a week out from our fascinating History week seminar Titanic Threads which will be illuminating the answers to these questions and more.

Concept sketch for Rose Dewitt Bukater

Concept sketch for Rose Dewitt Bukater. Illustration by David La Vey. Image courtesy 20th Century Fox.

Fiona Reilly, Head of Costume at the National Institute of Dramatic Art( NIDA) and herself a talented and experienced theatre, film and television costume designer will be bringing insight into the processes behind this seemingly glamorous profession. More than this she will also have in tow a selection of gorgeous and authentic fashion items from and inspired by the Belle Epoque era for a fashion parade by NIDA students at the event. NIDA has an extensive costume collection including antique clothing dating back as far as the 1800s kept for the purposes of student research.

Titanic Threads will also connect with our current exhibition Remembering Titanic: 100 years that features beautiful costumes from the 1997 blockbuster Titanic. Walking through the exhibition with Fiona she explains how there would have been at least 6 of each of these outfits, spares are always made on the set of a film in case the outfit is snagged, stained or damaged during production (and if you’ve watched the ending it’s no wonder that more than few of the infamous “sinking dress” were required to withstand multiple takes of running around the ship and hours of wading in water). Jack’s costume is the one she really disagrees with, even a third class passenger would have dressed much more formally than this, it would have been quite scandalous to be caught in what he wears most of the time- something akin to an undershirt. Of course there are other discrepancies, a little bit of a creative take on history as films so often do- Rose shows far too much cleavage and a woman of her breeding wouldn’t have ever been caught outside without a hat to match this yellow sundress. Other elements are quite true to form however, costume designer Deborah Lynn Scott would have spent extensive time researching from photographs and actual vintage fashions to recreate the style and feel of the era.

Molly Brown costume concept sketch

Molly Brown costume concept sketch. Illustration by David La Vey. Image courtesy 20th Century Fox

Our resident historian, author and Titanic enthusiast Inger Sheil will also joining the line up at Titanic Threads to share the stories of some of the couturiers on board the infamous vessel.

Fashion can be a very special index of a period in history- social mores, economic climate, political identities and artistic influences. The Belle Epoque is no different.  To this end Titanic Threads will also unveil some of the historical context behind this era’s shift in styles that took puffs sleeves to tapered, wasp-waisted corsets to chemise – brassiere combos, and the emergence of bustle-free, oriental inspired and empire line garments that changed the course of fashion as we know it.

Titanic Threads

Wednesday 12 September 6-8pm

$20/ $18 members ( includes light refreshments and exhibition entry)

Bookings Essential and available online

Setting sail for 2011: Planet Shark inhabits ANMM

Happy new year!

We’re currently experiencing one of our busiest visiting periods here at the Australian National Maritime Museum. It’s a great time to consider visiting us as the atmosphere at the museum and surrounding Darling Harbour is buzzing!

Planet Shark – Predator or Prey is the highlight of our summer program, with kids and adults alike enjoying learning about the 350 different species of shark living in our oceans today.

Planet Shark - Predator or Prey - The Exhibition

Planet Shark - Predator or Prey - The Exhibition

Is our fear of sharks rational? There is no question that the fear of sharks is real and can be a serious affliction for some, but where has it come from? Explore this exhibition’s recreated 3D images of prehistoric sharks, significant pieces of memorabilia from the movie JAWS! and realistic life-size shark models on display.

You’ll also be able to join a fun and fact-filled tour with our Planet Shark character – Finn the Diver – who will lead you into the underwater domain of sharks and help debunk the myths.

Mary-Louise Williams, director of the Australian National Maritime Museum and Tim Winton, novelist and conservationist introduced Planet Shark – Predator or Prey at the ANMM late last year and we’ve been busy with plenty of visitors since.
Click here to see video from the event.

* The Exhibition has been made available by Grande Exhibitions of Australia.

Great White Shark - Planet Shark

Great White Shark - Planet Shark

There’s plenty more happening around the museum this summer!

  • To keep the older kids out of mischief, check out our youth programs - photography, drama and TV presenting, presented in collaboration with NIDA that focus on our key exhibitions.
  • Australia Day will be upon us soon, and where better to celebrate than at the ANMM? This will be the very last chance to see the HMB Endeavour before she commences preparation for her year long circumnavigation of Australia. Bring your picnics and enjoy the day on the foreshore with us.
  • Our under-5’s Mini Mariners programs recommence in February and March, and the excitement is building for Playgroups NSW ‘The Worlds’ Biggest Playgroup Day’, to be held at the ANMM.
  • On their own – Britain’s child migrants is still showing, and will be with us until mid-May.
Youth photography workshops

Youth photography workshops

We’d love you to join us here at the Australian National Maritime Museum this summer. If you’re unable to make it, do join us online at or