The Darnell Collection

If you’re in Melbourne over the next few months and you love fashion, especially vintage, then you must get down to the Burrinja Cultural Centre in Upwey. Fashion meets Fiction is an exciting and innovative exhibition concept that brings together popular fiction and its many famous colourful characters with the trend towards high-end fashion, and period pieces.

Vintage Dior from the Darnell Collection

Burrinja Executive Officer, Ross Farnell says “Fashion meets Fiction is a unique and fascinating event that brings together over 200 years of costume, fashion, design and fiction with the many famous and often glamorous characters that inhabit our popular culture; from Scarlett O’Hara to Holly Golightly, Phryne Fisher to Carrie Bradshaw and beyond. The exhibition and a raft of fabulous events will immerse audiences into the world of these celebrated fictional characters through fashion, creating a not-to-be-missed experience.”

The Darnell Collection, which will be on show, is an extensive and most impressive collection of clothes, accessories and shoes that was started by Doris Darnell. Doris has been collecting vintage clothes for the last 70 years. Charlotte Smith inherited her godmothers collection and is now sole custodian and curator of the Darnell Collection.
Charlotte Smith

Here is some background on Doris Darnell taken from the Darnell Collection’s blog: For over 70 years Doris Darnell, a Quaker from Pennsylvania, pursued a passion for fashion by collecting vintage clothes and accessories. For Doris, the social history behind the items was as important as the items themselves and preserving them and their stories for future generations became an important part of her passion. The Darnell Collection grew out of donations and gifts from around the world. Importantly, most of the items came with accompanying letters, photographs and stories which linked them to the original owners or donors and often to the occasions to which they were worn.

Charlotte Smith inherited her godmother Doris’s collection in 2004. It has continued to grow through further bequests to over 5,500 pieces representing 23 different countries and is considered the largest private vintage clothing collection in Australia.

Every aspect of a woman’s wardrobe since 1720 to present day is included: outerwear, underwear, nightwear, day and evening dresses, wedding dresses, sportswear, shoes, hats, handbags, gloves, jewellery, lace, buttons, fans, feathers, textiles, wire hoop crinolines and bustles. Men’s and children’s clothing is also represented as is a large reference library of books, journals and museum exhibition catalogues.

As custodian of the Darnell Collection, Charlotte recognises the importance of its role in fashion history education and its role as a design resource. The collection’s mission is to preserve, develop and enhance the collection’s ability to educate, interpret and inspire existing and new audiences for the better understanding and appreciation of the art of fashion.

The exhibition is open Tuesday to Sunday 10:30-4:00pm
Venue: Burrinja, 351 Glenfern Rd, Upwey
Date: 9 Nov – 17 Feb


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