The Red Center: The Quest for "Authenticity" in Australian Dress

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This essay analyses Australia's Red Center (Uluru – formerly Ayers Rock – and Kata Tjuta) and Aboriginal design motifs as sources for a revitalized, highly decorative and supposedly 'authentic' form of Australian clothing, created during the intensely nationalist political period of the 1970s and 80s. It concentrates particularly on the innovative work of Sydney designers Jenny Kee and Linda Jackson. They sold their personalized 'authentic non-style' through their boutique Flamingo Park, set up in 1973. Important to this reconfiguration of Australian style were the designer's trips taken to the Outback, and direct collaborations with indigenous practitioners like Marmburra Wananumba Banduk Marika. Their focus on cross-cultural inspiration and commodification of 'ethnicity', within the globalizing economy, shows this innovative dress did not acknowledge Europe as the major source of design ideas. Rather as a type of 'wearable art', its shapes and motifs encouraged the idea that fashion design could be a type of spiral, an attraction toward inner inspiration stimulated by actual and conceptual journeys from the periphery, that is metropolitan Australia, to the indigenous heart of the continent, the Red Center.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: May 1, 1999

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  • Fashion Theory takes as its starting point a definition of “fashion” as the cultural construction of the embodied identity. The importance of studying the body as a site for the deployment of discourses has been well established in a number of disciplines. Until Fashion Theorys launch in 1997 the dressed body had suffered from a lack of critical analysis. Increasingly scholars have recognized the cultural significance of self-fashioning, including not only clothing but also such body alterations as tattooing and piercing.

    Fashion Theory provides an international and interdisciplinary forum for the rigorous analysis of cultural phenomena. Its peer-reviewed articles range from foot-binding to fashion advertising.
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