From Brisbane's Courier Mail

WHILE the latest fashion is on show in Brisbane this week, an exhibition opening tomorrow gives insight into the history of women's clothing from the 1700s.

As the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival plays out at South Bank, nearby at the QUT Art Museum, Dreaming of Chanel, an exhibition of vintage clothing, opens tomorrow.

The exhibition is based on Charlotte Smith's book of the same name and displays almost 40 garments, as well as around 20 shoes, handbags and pieces of jewellery, all of which tell a story of fashion and society through the ages.

"We're following on the heels of Valentino and the Stephen Jones Hats exhibitions (at GoMA) but we're not actually looking at a particular designer, rather the stories about the women that are as important as the clothing," said Smith.

As custodian of a collection of more than three thousand pieces of vintage clothing inherited from her Quaker godmother Doris Darnell in 2004, Smith has catalogued the stories of hundreds of items and the women who first wore them over two books, Dreaming of Dior and Dreaming of Chanel.

The books' popularity, she said, have been due to people's interest in the social history aspect of fashion.

"When I talk to people about the books I think one of the reasons they're popular is they're really just books telling stories about women. It's really quite nostalgic and it's something that's accessible to everybody."

On display at QUT Art Museum until October 16, the Dreaming of Chanel exhibition features designer label pieces from the likes of Chanel, Dior and Pucci, as well as Australian designs including that of 1950s Hollywood favourite Ceil Chapman.

A diamond and onyx Tiffany brooch from the 1920s is featured alongside a David Jones pant suit from the 1980s in a collection Smith describes as a poignant snapshot of history.

"Some people look at fashion as frivolous but I think why fashion has this very annoying tag is we've evolved into this throw-away society," she said.

"This exhibition shows women's special clothing was saved and brought out to special events and worn.

"These are pieces that you don't just appreciate the beauty of the garment, it's about their stories."