Deborah Wurrkidj’s design as a dress
Not too long ago, I found this fabric for $3 at an opshop (where else!?). As its designer, indigenous artist Deborah Wurrkidj, and the Babbarra Women’s Centre were credited along the selvedge, it was easy to find out a bit more about its origins. It turns out the pattern is called kun-madj or dilly bag, which for any non-Australian readers basically means a bag to carry food and other smallish objects. Each fabric repeat depicts one dilly bag.
I’ve enjoyed looking at Deborah’s other designs along with others from the Babbarra Women’s Centre. You can see them (and buy them) here (don’t blame me if you fall in love with ALL the designs!).
Although this fabric would look great displayed on a wall, the fact that it is sturdy, breathable cotton persuaded me to make it into a heatwave-appropriate dress instead. Initially I thought I’d create something without cutting the fabric so that if the urge took me, I could unpick it and display it in its entirety, but eventually I gave up and decided to make a simple shift dress instead that would showcase the print.
The pattern pieces only just fitted onto the fabric so I had to include the selvedge down the centre back, but managed to make it look like it was intentional (at least, I think it works!). Plus, this way I can retain Deborah’s name so it’s like a wearable piece of indigenous art.
I took the dress with me on last weekend’s camping trip to Blanket Bay, knowing that I’d be sick of dressing in grotty activewear after a few days and longing to wear something decent on the drive home. It also meant I could do my little fashion shoot for this post out in a bush setting, which seemed appropriate, even though the country around Blanket Bay (along the Great Ocean Road) is nothing like Arnhem Land, where the Babbarra Women’s Centre group is based. I’m looking forward to getting up there one day – and when I do, I’ll photograph the dress in its rightful setting.