The Australian Women’s Weekly Fashion: The First 50 Years

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To this day when I see a copy of  Australian Women’s Weekly I am transported straight back to my grandma’s lounge room in Sydney where inevitably there was a ‘Weekly’ magazine sitting on the coffee table next to her as she sat knitting.

I would park my bike next to the gate leading to the back stairs of her house on my way home from school, grab a choccie (usually a Kingston) biscuit from the always-full cookie jar in the kitchen and return to sit with Grandma while flicking through the Weekly – which, in my childhood memory always had Princess Diana photographed on the cover.

I’ve only just learned that the magazine actually started as a tabloid sized weekly magazine in 1933, printed on news stock and was quite revolutionary for its day. It was the first weekly publication specifically aimed at female readers – influencing the way Australian women dressed, cooked, knit, shopped and looked after their families as well as covering current affairs and news.

My grandma was a young mother with three boisterous baby boys on her hands when the Weekly started and I can just imagine her looking forward to seeing what recipes were inside and seeing what the Princess Elizabeth and her glamorous sister Margaret were wearing.

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I love that the National Library of Australia has now digitised the first 50 years of the magazine through the online portal, Trove. It effectively creates an archive of how Australians looked, behaved and lived their lives between 1933 and 1982.

They’ve also released a book showcasing those first 50 years authored by Deborah Thomas, former Editor-in-Chief of The  Weekly, and Kirstie Clements, former Editor-in-Chief of Vogue Australia.

The book reveals how fashions evolved over the decades; from the elegant outfits of the 1930s to the Hollywood-inspired evening gowns of the 1950s, to the psychedelic patterns and micro-minis of the 1960s and the bold and bohemian styles of the 1970s.

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“Writing the book became a labour of love for us both, as we pored over the wonderful illustrations, nostalgic ads and glamorous fashion photographs featured in early editions of The Weekly, many of which are now published in this book,” author Deborah Thomas said.

“It was fascinating to study these exquisite images and put them into the context of the cultural and political changes that influenced the designers and women of the time—to uncover elegant and often quirky fashion nuances that revealed so much about the role, aspirations and status of women in each decade, as seen through the pages of The Australian Women’s Weekly.”

If you are interested, there was an interview with both authors on ABC Radio National yesterday – worth a listen to for its insight into how publishing and fashions have changed over the decades. Listen here.

You can find out more about the book here.

Images: The National Library of Australia

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