Saturday, 25 April 2015

For the love of Lilli Diamond

Photographer: Peter Coulson

As many readers would know, I recently tracked down the amazing Lilli Diamond and wrote a story about her in Frankie magazine! I had to keep quiet about the whole thing until the magazine came out, which was tough… It was the biggest secret I’ve ever had to keep.

Since the story came out, a lot of people have asked why I started collecting Lilli Diamond dresses in the first place. In short, it’s because of burlesque!

I performed with Hi Ball Burlesque for ten years, and while I never wore Lilli Diamonds on stage, I still needed a lot of dresses to wear to the fancy parties and events we attended. We truly believed that our performance began when walked into a venue, not just when we came out on stage. We wanted to uphold an image of vintage glamour at all times, even when we weren't in costume.

Wearing Lilli Diamond backstage, at events and as a bridesmaid.
Back when burlesque was really booming in Melbourne, we were performing all the time, so we needed cocktail dresses and plenty of them! Luckily it was also the early days of ebay, and they weren’t too hard to find. I would just bid on things that caught my eye, which was usually ruched chiffon, illusion lace or claw-set rhinestones. (Preferably all three at once.)

After a while, I noticed my favourite dresses were all Lilli Diamonds. And now, after learning the history of the label, it makes complete sense that the dresses were created by a man who loved women... We love you right back, Al Diamond!

So that's how I came to collect Lilli Diamond dresses, and it was also burlesque connections that led to the Lilli Diamond exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria. It was only one day, but it was an important day, because it gave me the motivation I needed to track down the lady herself. 

At the NGV exhibition. Anna Go-Go wears a rare daytime Lilli Diamond!
A selection of Lilli Diamonds in front of the National Gallery's iconic water wall.
Lilli Diamonds everywhere!
To read more about my search for Lilli, you can pick up a copy of this month's Frankie magazine and check out the new site I created about Lilli and the history of the label. It's a story that's been waiting 60 years to be told.

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