Australia: A Romantic Wardrobe, Part II


Did you happen to go see Australia this weekend? If my first words with costume designer Catherine Martin didn't pique your interest maybe these will. Some specific items of clothing stood out to me in the film — notably the colors of Lady Ashley's clothes, her belts, and her red Chinosierie dress. Here's what Martin had to say about those standouts.

I noticed she wears a lot of blues and browns. The film is so visually arresting how did you factor in the color of the clothes with the beauty of the movie?

"I had another collaborator, Mandy Walker, who is the Director or Photography. Baz, Mandy and I looked at a lot of color photography from that period and we started talking about exploring a palette out of the photography. We had a broad palette that encompassed all the colors from the film. What’s interesting about the color photography from the period, it meant a lot of mixed tones that got really close together, you have a monochromatic base. From that we developed our own color theory.

For the arrival suit, it wasn’t the ideal color choice, we made her blue and white because it was the most unlikely, it clashed with the environment. She was a totally different alien person to this place. And as the movie progresses her colors are references to Australia and become much stronger, she becomes part of her environment."

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I noticed throughout her transition in the movie, she has a fondness for belts. Everyone wore belts. Was that more fashion or function?

"It’s a combination. The style was wearing two belts, a belt to hold your pants up, and a hobble belt, which helped you capture horses, tying their legs together so they can’t run away during the night, which some of the stockmen wore. Looking over the beautiful leather accessories and sportswear of the 1930s, there were some beautiful belts, notably made by Hermes and various other designers of the period. I think they’re a fantastic accessory; I love how it defines the waistline, pulls the outfit together. I really was a fan of the belt in this film."

I love how it also defined Nicole’s tiny, perfect waist. Even at the end of the film, she still looked put together.

"Yeah, it’s sort of a no nonsense thing. You feel definite in some way."


Tell me about the red Chinosierie dress. And the pink one. What a unique choice.

"Those two dresses. Basically, Lady Ashley loses all her clothes at one point. Baz said the challenge was: What is she going to wear when she gets to town, all her clothes have been trashed. We were looking in the contemporary newspapers of the day. And in the Northern a lot of Chinese tailors would advertise their manufacturing skills and that fact that they could make clothes in a very short space of time.

Darwin is closer to Indonesia than any other city. You had a very big Asian influence at the time, and a very important Chinatown. We made a back-story in our minds that Sing Song, who was the Chinese cook, would have had a coven who comes from Shanghai to Darwin and he would have a tailoring business. And Sarah would go to that business and get her clothes made. There was a big fashion amongst Asian people, which was a problem with the Nationalists of the time. In reality, she would have gone to a Chinese tailor."

The red dress was the standout dress of the movie, of the party. I love how it gets rained on, but she doesn’t care.

"Yes. The one good thing about silk organza is it responds to the wet."

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