Prue Acton Ski Suit for Australian Team at Innsbruck Winter Olympics

Contributed by: Thredbo Historical Society and Ski Museum

Prue Acton ski suit front view Photo: Roger Andrew Prue Acton ski suit rear view Prue Acton ski suit with hood stitched on to garment at back of neck and normally tucked into an inside pocket below the bottom seam of the back of collar Prue Acton ski suit front view of bib & brace style pants (the sweater is a prop) Prue Acton ski suit back view of bib & brace style pants Prue Acton ski suit Manufacturer’s label “Olympia” “designed by Louis Preiss, Melbourne” “Prue Acton” label attached to the jacket lining Jacket pockets inserted in seams Waist to hem side zip showing inside cuff which fastens over top of ski boot Patch repair over tear on back of jacket below the third horizontal stripe Australian Ski Year Book 1976 cover Australian Ski Year Book 1976 article Garry Holt in the Prue Acton Ski Suit, November 1975
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Object information

Significance statement

“Australia’s ‘golden girl of fashion’ Prue Acton became famous because her bold designs reflected the moods of her times, the 1960s to 1980s.  Amongst Ms Acton’s many achievements was the design of uniforms for every Australian Summer and Winter Olympic contingent between 1976 and 1988 – for which she won international accolades.  Ms Acton sought to divert attention from green towards gold (with black or navy blue) as the recommended national palette, but the attempt finally failed with the proclamation of green and gold as the official national colours by Prime Minister Bob Hawke in April 1984.  Despite this, Ms Acton has been described as the person most associated with the evolution of the Australian Olympic uniform.  The fabric was produced according Acton’s specifications for the Australian Olympic Committee.  Ms Acton felt the fabric was not faithful to her specification but she nevertheless had to proceed to production of, arguably, the most striking ski suit in Olympic history – the wearers were described either as zebras or jailbirds!

“Although not an authentic 1976 Olympic ‘warm up suit’, this two-piece outfit is a unique reminder of one of the three designs for the eight Winter Olympians at Innsbruck, Austria, of which no other examples survive. It differs only in the lack of horizontally striped panels on the trousers. This copy was made from left-over fabric by the manufacturer of the official Olympic uniforms, Olympia of Melbourne, for a member of the Australian Ski Federation B Team” (Bullock, 2013)

  

Author: Veronica Bullock, Significance International, March 2013.

Description

 Two piece padded ski suit produced in bold black (charcoal) and white stripes with ochre yellow trim.  The trousers are ‘bib and brace’ style.  The stripes on the trousers are vertical only.  Six panels on the jacket have vertical stripes while four panels have horizontal stripes. The garment carries three labels:  one for Prue Acton design, the second a manufacturer’s label for Louis Preiss for Olympia of Melbourne.  The third label is a name tag for Gary Holt is stitched on the lining of the jacket at the neck.  (Bullock, 2013 p. 38)

The whole suit is lined with black nylon.  The striped fabric is closely woven nylon and the ochre inserts are of imitation suede.  The rink collared jacket has a full length centre front zip closure and 3 external pockets.  The jacket has a hood stitched on to the garment at the back of the neck and in fine weather.  The hood is tucked into an inside pocket below the seam between the base of rink collar and the top of the jacket at the neck edge.

The trousers are called “overpants” with full length side opening zips which enable them to be worn over a ace suit and be removed for competition.  The pants have an inner cuff which closes over the ski boot in order to prevent snow getting inside the ski boot.

History and Provenance

The garment on display was owned by Junior Racer Garry Holt who was a member of the Australian Ski Federation (ASF) B team. He travelled to Europe from Cooma NSW, with the ASF A and B teams in 1976 prior to the Innsbruck Winter Olympics.  There were variations in the team uniform manufactured in Melbourne, according to the team to which the skier belonged.  It was from the A team that the Olympic ski racers were selected.   At one time Garry Holt was amongst Australia’s top 10 alpine ski racers. In 1978 Garry became ski instructor in the Thredbo School where he taught for six years.  Garry Holt lived in Cooma, NSW where his father operated a business (based on a conversation with Kim Clifford, June 2015).

Do you have any stories or community information associated with this?

 The suit was worn by Mr Garry Holt who was a member of the Australian Ski Federation B Team.  The Australian Ski Federation Teams had their own different uniform but stayed in the same hotel as the Olympians prior to the 1976 Winter Olympic Games at Innsbruck, Austria. 

“Mr Henke recalls that when the fabric was designed by Prue Acton arrived, she asked if it could be remade with wider stripes.  Ms Acton says that when the fabric arrived, both she and designer husband Mike Treloar found the stripes to be much wider than their specification.  There was no time to have the fabric re-done.  Ms Acton recalled that suite of garments she designed for these Olympians as comprising black corduroy trousers and striped jumpers (‘walking out suit’) and gold coloured one-piece ski suits for the actual racing.  She describes the striped two-piece suit as the ‘warm up suit’ to go over racing gear.  She did not recall the striped helmets.

Ms Acton regards her particular innovation at these Games as shifting the palette away from green and toward gold.”  (Bullock V, 2013 p. 40, 41, based in part on an interview with Prue Acton on 26 February 2013 and two emails with Geoff Henke dated 14th and 17th March 2013).

Ms Acton stated in her email dated 17 March 2015 to Christina Webb:  “My recollection is only slightly different; Mike Treloar and I had specified a narrow black and white stripe and Geoff was unable to source a similar design so we had to compromise with the wider stripe he had found.  The walking out suit included a brown sheep skin coat.  The striped ski jumper with a large kangaroo motif on the chest, became a huge seller for an Australian company who copied it without permission!”

When the ski suit was worn on the slopes, journalist and photographer Bill Bachman said they looked like something “between a crossword puzzle and a zebra” (Bachman B, 1976).  .  

 

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

This garment was designed by the Australian fashion designer Prue Acton, OBE (born 26 April 1943).  In 1963 Prue Acton established her own fashion design business in Flinders Lane, Melbourne, and by age 21 she was turning over 350 designs a year and selling an average of 1,000 dresses a week through 80 outlets in Australia and New Zealand. As her fashion business took off, Acton also began to develop her own range of cosmetics to complement the range. In 1967 she became the first Australian female designer to mount a show of her own range of garments in New York By 1982 the estimated world-wide sales of her designs was $11 million with garments sold in Australia, Japan, USA, Canada, New Zealand, and her designs made under licence in America, Japan and Germany.

Acton also designed the Australian Olympic uniforms (1978, Lake Placid, USA); (1984, Los Angeles); (1988, Seoul).  (www. Wikipedia viewed  August 10, 2015)

Where did this information come from?

This information comes from:

1)      Bullock, V. 2013. “Thredbo Historical Society Significance Assessmentfor a 2012 Community Heritage Grant”. Published by Significance International, p. 38 - 42

2)      Bachman, W. 1976. Australian Ski Year Book ‘76 “The Martin Kerscher Sunshine Tour Christmas Special”.  Victorian Ski Association on behalf of the Australian Ski Federation.  p. 14 – 18

3)      Australian Ski Federation 1976.   Australian Ski Year Book ‘76 “Australian and Olympic Team – Europe 1976/76”. Victorian Ski Association on behalf of the Australian Ski Federation.  p. 19.

4)      Consolidated Press 1976. “Australia’s New Winter Olympic Uniforms”.  Australian Women’s Weekly Magazine February 18, 1976, p.7 (www.trove.nls.gov.au viewed March25, 2015

5)      Prue Acton- From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (www. wikipedia viewed  August 10, 2015)

 

Copyright clearance has been received for images

This garment has been exhibited

The garment has been on display at the Thredbo Historical Society's Ski Museum in Thredbo since circa 1998

  1. Place of origin:

    Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

  2. Cost:

    $600 estimated cost

     

     

  3. Owned by:

    The Prue Acton Ski Suit owned by Garry Holt, was loaned to Wayne Lazarus who in turn donated it to the Thredbo Historical Society circa 1998. On 30th March 2015 Garry Holt formally donated it to the Museum.

  4. Worn by:

    Garry Holt

  5. Occasion(s):

    1975/76 European winter World Cup ski events

  6. Place:

    Neustift, Austria on December 26th 1975 and European World Cup ski events

  7. Designed by:

    Jacket designed by Prue Acton OBE, pants designed by Louis Preiss, Olympia Ski Wear, Melbourne

  8. Made by:

    Louis Preiss, Olympia Ski Wear, Melbourne

  9. Made for:

    Garry Holt

Trimmings / Decoration

There are no trimmings or decoration on the garment

Fibre / Weave

1. Colour: Charcoal black and ochre with black lining. Black knitted cuffs.

2. Fibre: Nylon and imitation synthetic suede. Nylon lining with synthetic padded inner lining, synthetic wool.

3. Weave: Closely woven synthetic fabric. The matt appearance to give suede look

4. Location for all parts included in this record: charcoal black and white nylon and ochre imitation suede wide inserts on the jacket and pants, with black nylon lining plus inner thin layer of padding on of both parts. The jacket sleeves have black machine knitted cuffs.

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye

Manufacture

The entire garment is machine stitched

Label

There are two labels:

1) Prue Acton Design

2) Designed Olympia, Louis Preiss Melbourne

  1. Hand sewn
  2. Machine sewn
  3. Knitted
  4. Other

Cut

  1. Bias
  2. Straight

Fastenings

All the zips are narrow nylon zips. 

Two black metal press studs at the centre front of the rink collared jacket.

The jacket has a full length centre front zip closing, The jacket pockets are sewn into the seams. One jacket pocket is located on the lower right hand front side of the jacket between vertical and horizontal stripes. On either side of the jacket at between the ochre and striped seams are pockets below the waist line.

The trousers have a bib pocket with two press stud fasteners and there is a press stud fastener on the 'overboot' cuff.  The trousers have zips from the top of the “bib” to the bottom of the leg. The fly has a zip opening.

The shoulder straps have metal buckles attaching them to the top of the trouser bib.

  1. Hook and eye
  2. Lacing
  3. Buttons
  4. Zip
  5. Drawstring

Stiffening / Lining / Padding

The inner padding of the suit is a layer of thin synthetic wadding

Measurements

jacket trousers
Girth
Neck 450 mm
Chest 930 mm
Waist 860 mm 860 mm
Hip 1060 mm 940 mm
Cuff 220 mm 520 mm
Hem circumference 1060 mm 520 mm
Vertical
Front neck to hem 580 mm
Front waist to hem 940 mm
Back neck to hem 660 mm
Back waist to hem 1060 mm
Sleeve length 660 mm
Inside leg 670 mm
Outside leg 1060 mm
Horizontal
Neck to sleeve head 170 mm
Cross back 430 mm
Underarm to underarm 480 mm
Convert to inches

Fabric width (selvedge to selvedge) unknown

Garment part:  Trousers

Vertical:

Top of bib to hem 1200 mm

Top of high waist to hem: 1190 mm

 

Additional material

Articles, publications, diagrams and receipts descriptions

 Related articles and publications associated with the garment include: 

1) Thredbo Historical Society Significance Assessment for a 2012 Community Heritage Grant.  Pages 38 - 42 (Veronica Bullock, Significance International, 2013)                                

2) Australian Ski Year Book 1976 “The Martin Kerscher Sunshine Tour Christmas Special” (Bill Bachman) pages 14 – 18.           

        

3) Australian Women’s Weekly Magazine, February 18, 1976, page 7  www.trove.nla.gov.au25 March 2015

 

Copyright has been received for images used

Condition

Evidence of repairs

In 2003 the repair of a tear incurred by the wearer in 1976 at the centre back of the jacket, was hand stitched by Christina Webb in order to improve the appearance of the garment when on display.  The original vertical tear was overlaid with a patch of the fabric removed from the interior of a pocket.

See image for evidence of repair

State

  1. Excellent
  2. Good
  3. Fair
  4. Poor

Damage

  1. Torn
  2. Worn

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