Frock Club's Ruth Povall and Lois Hennes will travel to Ben Lomond on a drought tour

The Frock Club's Ben Lomond event will cover the Undercover story of the corset and underwear. Photo supplied.
The Frock Club's Ben Lomond event will cover the Undercover story of the corset and underwear. Photo supplied.

A morning à la mode could lift the spirits of drought-afflicted Ben Lomond women.

Ruth Povall and Lois Hennes, co-founders of the award-winning Frock Club fashion program, will bring modern and vintage style to the War Memorial Hall on July 30.

They are on a drought tour of regional Australia - and small villages like Ben Lomond are where they feel they most need to be.

"People really need to feed their souls," Ms Povall said. "They need to take time out from the daily rigours of really confronting stuff."

The two pattern engineers will talk about issues facing the fashion industry, and clothing between the wars. Participants will be able to try on some of those vintage garments themselves.

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Ruth Povall and Lois Hennes began the Frock Club at their local museum, Crawford House, in the coastal town of Alstonville three years ago.

The museum had a collection of regional dress and costumes - all once worn by local people - but few of the clothes were on display.

Lois Hennes and Ruth Povall, from Frock Club, with supporting partner GLENRAC's Julie Firth, at the Deepwater Frock Club event in April. Photo supplied.

Lois Hennes and Ruth Povall, from Frock Club, with supporting partner GLENRAC's Julie Firth, at the Deepwater Frock Club event in April. Photo supplied.

Ms Povall thought this a pity. Drawing on her experience working at the Museum of Victoria, she and Ms Hennes founded the club to bring the "amazing" clothes out of the archive, and educate people about the fashion industry.

The club began with only six people. Today, it has 500 members, and a strong social network built on a love of fashion. Last year, it received the NSW Members and Galleries Community Engagement Program of the Year Award.

"For a museum run by volunteers, we really are punching above our weight!" Ms Povall said.

The Frock Club wanted to do something for other agribased NSW communities in drought. They have toured the state - including Deepwater in April - bringing their fashion knowledge and garments with them.

"I'm not seeing larger museums doing anything like this, but this little museum in Alstonville, we're really out there, doing it," Ms Povall said. "We're thrilled to be able to do it."

The (Deepwater) Frockers, at Deepwater Arts Hall in April. Photo supplied.

The (Deepwater) Frockers, at Deepwater Arts Hall in April. Photo supplied.

The first half of the presentation will be a talk on the state of the fashion industry.

The Australian textile, clothing, and footwear industry has declined over the last decade, Ms Povall believes, while universities and technical skills no longer strongly support important technical skills.

Australian fashion, Ms Povall said, needs more people who are good at maths, engineering, and science: skills needed to make patterns, assemble garments, and for technical backroom work.

"If people in the sciences and maths decided to go into the fashion industry, the jobs are out there," Ms Povall said. "They pay very well for young people entering the industry."

Fashion is Ms Povall's own second career. School teachers told her she was too academic to continue needlecraft. She went to university, became a teacher, then worked in regional economic development, aviation, and quality assurance.

Fifteen years ago, though, she decided to go back to her original love of fashion and pattern-making. After a TAFE course, she studied a two-year fellowship with a master pattern engineer. "Almost like going to finishing school to complete my training!" she said.

Margaret Mitchell (right) and friends at the Deepwater event in April. Photo supplied.

Margaret Mitchell (right) and friends at the Deepwater event in April. Photo supplied.

She and Ms Hennes will bring some of Crawford House's treasures to Ben Lomond.

They will talk about corsetry from the 1890s to the modern day - its historical background and engineering significance - and show some modern derivatives of creaking Victorian whalebone.

Trousers, too. Pants began women's emancipation, Ms Povall explained. Ladies wanted to play active sports, and donned jodhpurs, plus-fours for golf, and cycling trousers.

Audience members will be able to try vintage dresses - including evening-wear, to add a touch of glamour - and matching hats.

"People love trying on hats, because they're so easy to wear," Ms Povall said. Certainly easier than putting on a corset - "although that might be fun!"

She encouraged attendees to dress up - to bring garments (Federation to 1950 vintage) from their collection, or wear something to show the group.

Mary Hollingworth (centre) and friends at the Deepwater event in April. Photo supplied.

Mary Hollingworth (centre) and friends at the Deepwater event in April. Photo supplied.

The event is a fundraiser for the Ben Lomond community. Entry is free for drought-affected Frockers. The Ben Lomond Hall Committee will provide morning tea. They will charge catering on a per-person basis, Ms Povall said; the more people who come, the more money organisers can give directly to the village.

And the morning might just bring on the rain. A fundraiser last year broke a three-month drought. Models, like in the old days of Dior, walked amongst the crowd at Crawford House - and, at the end of the presentation, an electric storm erupted.

"Everyone just got wet to their underpants, but they'll all remember the event," Ms Povall said. "It was just such a funny day!"

It might not rain in Ben Lomond, but this is sure to be a memorable day for the village's fashion lovers.

The Frock Club Drought Tour Fashion Presentation will be held at the Ben Lomond War Memorial Hall on Tuesday, July 30, from 9 to 12.30am. Call Ruth Povall on 0429 079 364 to book.

The event is funded by GlenRAC, the Alstonville Historical Society (home of Frock Club), and the Rural Financial Counselling Service NSW; and supported by Arts NW and the NSW Rural Women's Network.