Monday, 5 November 2012

Gwen Gillam frocks

On the weekend Chris and Susan invited a few people over to their home to meet a lady named Dell who used to work for  fashion designer Gwen Gillam.

For those who don't know, Gwen Gillam was an extremely popular mid-century dress designer in Brisbane - there is an exhibition currently on at the Queensland Museum showcasing her work (it ends in February 2013). The who's who of Brisbane (as well as the who's not) were known to frequent Gwen Gillam's Frock Salon which used to be located in the beautiful Brisbane Arcade.

A letter to Dell from Gwen on frock salon letterhead
Dell gave us a very personal account of what it was like to work for Gwen Gillam in her workrooms. She said they used to listen out for the clip clop of Gwen's heels, so they were never caught slacking off.

Dell brought a number of frocks and ensembles to show us some of the lovely designs and techniques used to make such divine dresses. Apparently, if the zipper was machine sewn, then it was not a Gwen Gillam dress!
hand-stitched zipper on pale pink evening dress
Susan in her Marimekko frock holding a Gwen Gillam frock.
The pink gown had a tail at the back which could be draped  to the front.

Dell promised to come back to demonstrate how to make rouleau and rouleau buttons for our fancy frocks. Let me know if you want to be in on it...

rouleau buttons and cord
Some of the girls made a pattern on yellow trace of a silk kerchief top that Dell brought along that day. It was such a simple, elegant design which was crying out to be copied. It will be the hot vintage thing to have in Brisbane this summer!

Gwen Gillam silk top being copied onto yellow trace
Also, the lovely Annie from Artistica Domestica did a blog post about the Gwen Gillam exhibition at the Museum when it first opened in August. It is another great personal account of how her Mum used to wear Gwennies and then passed them on to her daughter who wore them to B & S balls in the 80s and 90s!


  1. Gwen Gillam, great name, awesome letterhead, gorgeous frock(s)! Will pop over to Annies to read more (I hope she didn't ruin any of her Mum's frocks when she got up to shenanigans at those B&S balls!)

  2. I've not heard of her, but how fantastic! I'd have loved to have been in on your gathering - just my cup of tea!
    Oh the good old days :)

  3. It is ages since I've heard of a dress being called a frock. Is that one of those tops that ties around the neck and has long ties floating down your back? What an interesting day it must have been.

  4. Fabulous! I'm going to the exhibition now. X

  5. I found your blog via Bloggers, I'm new over there.

    I'm very interested in this blog since we used to live in Brisbane and have moved interstate renovating our 1926 building. I'm now following so I can keep up with your renovations.

    I loved the retro kitchen in your previous house!

  6. What a lovely way to spend your day! Envious over here!

  7. Gwen Gillam was my grandmother, if you would like an original letterhead or equivalent please let me know.

    Aaron Potts


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