Hollywood gowns for sale as fair recalls design pioneer

Liz HobdayAAP
Gowns worn by the late actress Raquel Welch will feature at Sydney Fair. (AP PHOTO)
Camera IconGowns worn by the late actress Raquel Welch will feature at Sydney Fair. (AP PHOTO) Credit: AP

Among the vintage items on sale at the Sydney Fair are two with genuine glamour attached to the price tag: gowns once worn by the late Hollywood actor Raquel Welch.

Welch, who died in 2023 at the age of 82, starred in dozens of films and television shows over a 50-year career, including the 1966 films Fantastic Voyage and One Million Years B.C.

The gowns are both chocolate brown silk in a 1930s style, one by Australian-born designer Richard Tyler, and the other by US designer Norma Kamali.

"They are beautiful and because she had so many clothes, they are in amazing condition," antiques dealer Dianne Pickett told AAP.

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"They have probably only been worn for one or two events, she did have an incredible wardrobe."

The dresses will feature in a catwalk show and exhibition at the fair, and are each expected to be sold for about $2,500.

Due to Welch's unusual dress measurements, the garments have been challenging to fit onto models, said Pickett.

"You need to be size four waist and size 16 bust," she told AAP.

But most buyers of items such as these are enthusiastic collectors who would never actually wear the garments, she said.

Pickett has spent hours researching the dresses and says Welch wore the Norma Kamali outfit to the Council of Fashion Designers of America awards in 1988, and it was featured in an online tribute after Welch died.

The fair also features a talk on one of the pioneers of Australian costume design, Mavis Ripper.

Ripper began making costumes for Cinesound Film Productions in the 1930s, and designed the outfits for one of the first local films co-produced by a Hollywood studio.

Her work also influenced fashion on the streets - a gold lame cocktail frock and velvet jacket similar to that worn by Elaine Hamill, star of the 1937 Cinesound film Lovers and Luggers, was available to Ripper's clients for four guineas.

Research by the Australian Film and Sound Archive outlines how, with the outbreak of World War II, the designer also campaigned for the use of Australian-made wool fabrics.

Sydney Fair is on at Royal Randwick Racecourse from Thursday until Sunday.

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