Nadia Buick

Nadia Buick is a curator, writer and researcher across the disciplines of art and fashion. She has worked in partnership with institutions and organisations such as the State Library of Queensland, QUT Art Museum and the Jean Brown Group to realise fashion exhibition projects and has introduced significant national collections to Brisbane audiences, including the Darnell Collection. Nadia holds a doctorate from the Queensland University of Technology. Her research proposes a new model for fashion curation and charts the historical development of the field in a range of sites. Nadia’s curatorial practice explores the impact of memory and narrative within fashion display and exhibition, particularly in relation to women’s identity. Nadia regularly gives public lectures relating to fashion history and curatorial studies.

Tell us how you came to be interested in fashion…

Clothing and all of its related accoutrements have interested me from the time I was a small child. My mother tells me I was always very wilful in the way I liked to be dressed, and apparently learnt to dress myself at a very young age. This resulted in fun times for mum, battling the discarded piles of clothing at the end of each day – the result of putting together ‘the perfect outfit.’ I still struggle with this affliction today.

I began wearing vintage clothing as an adolescent, buying my first pieces in the local Maleny op-shops (1970s maxi dresses and wrap skirts) at the age of 12. Since then I’ve increasingly amassed a fairly large collection of vintage, with a particular emphasis on dresses. My wardrobe is overwhelmingly made up of vintage and second-hand items, and I deliberately limit any new purchases to an absolute minimum.

In a formal sense I became interested in the study and analysis of fashion during my undergraduate degree, taking some electives on the subject as distractions from my literature, cultural studies and art history majors. Eventually I ended up majoring in fashion history and theory too, going on to postgraduate study in this area. I wrote an Honours thesis about art and fashion, analysing women’s self-portraiture through the lens of fashion, identity and feminism. I then began a PhD on fashion curation, which I have recently completed.

Where do you look for inspiration on matters of style?

I’m interested in the way that all kinds of people dress, the way people have dressed in the past, and the way that fashion plays with time. I don’t have a single source of inspiration, but find it in many places, from books to paintings to films, and also in the lives of women throughout the centuries, from an individual that I might find in an old photograph through to some of the great icons like Diana Vreeland, Iris Apfel and Frida Kahlo. Most of all, I love scouring flea markets and finding old garments and imagining who might have worn them, and how they ended up there. Reimagining these clothes and bringing them in to my own wardrobe continues to add to their potential as inspiring objects through time.

What is your most treasured dress-related object or memory?

Each new treasure I add to my collection is my most treasured!

In my line of work I’m very lucky to have been able to see and handle some remarkable garments and objects. Working with the extraordinary Darnell Collection and seeing exquisite couture pieces and items that have lasted across the centuries was certainly a highlight. It’s probably also telling that my earliest memory, at age 2, involves losing an earring…

Give us three words, people or places you associate with Queensland fashion…




Is there such a thing as a distinct Queensland style?

Developing this project with Madeleine King has really been a way to test this question. At this stage, I’m not sure. I think there is definitely an argument to be made for a certain flavour or distinctiveness in Queensland style, but it isn’t an overwhelming thing. Of course the world is more international than ever, and most of our fashion inspiration and clothing comes from overseas. But looking into the past, as we are doing with The Fashion Archives, reveals instances of adaptation and a certain attitude to dressing in Queensland that I think could be called distinctive in its own small and idiosyncratic way.

Published in , on August 27, 2013.