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Kylie

by Margot Anderson, 1 March 2005

The Kylie exhibition celebrated the significant achievements of one of Australia's most internationally recognisable faces and gave the general public a rare glimpse into her glamorous life. 

Kylie, 2004
Kylie, 2004

The majority of Australians would agree that Kylie Minogue is one of Australia's most internationally recognisable faces. Her career has spanned over 20 years and encompasses not only the music industry, but the world of film, television and fashion.

The National Portrait Gallery has held exhibitions which focus on individuals such as the Rarely Everage: the lives of Barry Humphries and The world of Thea Proctor. Although not a biographical show, Kylie celebrates the significant achievements of a young Australian and gives the general public a rare glimpse into her glamorous life. The collection of over 300 costumes gifted to the Victorian Arts Centre Trust in 2003 now takes its place alongside other Australian icons, Dame Nellie Melba and Dame Edna Everage.

When the Victorian Arts Centre began researching the collection and considered how best to present and explore Kylie's story as a contemporary artist through an exhibition, the decision was made to approach it thematically. Music and video, tours, special performances, style and icon became the framework around which decisions were made as to what to include from a collection that holds over 300 costumes. A sixth theme - image - looked at Kylie through the eyes of well-known photographic shoots. It was decided that the photographs should speak for themselves.

Kylie's remarkable transformation from the 'girl next door' to the 'princess of pop' can be clearly traced through the costumes worn in her videos. Having won the hearts of audiences both here and overseas as Charlene the tomboy mechanic on Neighbours in the 1980s, elements of this character remained at the heart of her earty videos such as 'I Should Be So Lucky' (1989). Although the overalls were nowhere to be seen the light-hearted girlishness she was already famous for was enhanced by a simple, muslin dress with puffed sleeves and oversized pockets. Designed by well-known Australian designer, Jenny Bannister, the dress reflects the innocence associated with Kylie at the time.

One of the things that make this collection so unique is its completeness. Rarely are we given such tangible access to the moments that have helped shape the career of a living legend.

Kylie's decision to join independent English recording label deConstrudion in 1993 signalled a brave new direction both musically and stylistically. The costumes worn in videos from this period such as 'Confide In Me' (1994) play with Kylie's theatrical flair and in the case of 'Did It Again' (1997) inject humour into the equation. Here we see four different Kyties dressed to reflect the way the media has labelled her different incarnations. 'Cute Kylie', 'Sex Kylie', 'Indie Kylie' and 'Dance Kylie' fight for supremacy in exaggerated versions of costumes she had appeared in throughout the 1990s.

The costumes worn on tour provide valuable insight into the rigors of live performance. Kylie's costumes are truly 'working' outfits and by the end of a tour the wear and tear of multiple costume changes, microphone packs and make-up is evident. Apart from showing the techniques used to enhance the impact of Kylie's performance through trims such as sequins, crystals and fringing, the costumes are often fitted with industrial strength 2ips to withstand the demands of highly physical choreography and rapid costume changes.

The wardrobe for KylieFever2002 tour was designed by the famous Italian duo Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana (Dolce & Gabbana) and involved eight costume changes. They incorporated cutting edge fashion statements such as the combination of 'Banana' stilettos with bulky combat trousers while referencing cult films such as Charlotte Ramplings The Night Porter with a rap inspired police uniform. This tour broke away from the more traditonal themes of musical theatre associated with her previous tour On A Night Like This in 2000. Kylie's ability to re-invent herself while remaining true to her world-wide fan base was put to the test for her Intimate and Live tour in 1998 when she revealed her now famous showgirl persona. This proved to be one of her most successful transformations and remains a signature look of Kylie's to this day.

The time and effort invested in Kylies touring wardrobe is just as evident in the costumes designed for one-off performances. From concerts, award ceremonies and charity occasions to major international events, Kylie delights and sometimes surprises audiences when she performs. While costuming for these events can often be traced to the broader style adopted for a video, music release or tour they are very often unique 'stand alone' looks created especially for the occasion.

Kylie worked with Melbourne-based designer Mark Burnett to create an interesting take on the Geisha for Mushroom Records 25th Anniversary Concert in 1998. Burnett created an edgy variation on the tracksuit embellishing it with an early version of the 'K' tag that has since evolved and been incorporated into Kylie's custom-made costume jewellery by English designer Johnny Rocket, Many of these performances have become iconic moments in Kylie's career such as the controversial duet with Justin Timberlake at the 2003 BRIT Awards A last minute change of song called for a far raunchier costume, which was supplied by UK based designer Julien Macdonald. The designer recalls his shock when watching the performance on television that night and realising the floor length gown he supplied had been strategically slashed to become a daring mini.

The gold hot pants worn in the video for 'Spinning Around' form the centrepiece of the exhibition's icon theme. Like so many of Kylie's costumes they mark an important moment in her career and are instantly recognisable outside the dedicated circle of Kylie fans. Found in a Flee market for 50p they have gone on to become a legend in their own right as has the famous white, hooded jumpsuit worn in the video for 'Can't Get You Out Of My Head'.

Kylie's phenomenal appeal internationally ensures her a place at many premiere events and functions around the world. Although technically 'off-duty' her celebrity status makes her hot property amongst the paparazzi and many of the gowns captured in these photographs are now in the collection. Kylie has triggered many trends at these events and promoted the work of many up and coming designers in the process.

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