Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Susie Beame Post 7- Lizzy Gardiner, Costume Designer

Lizzy Gardiner made a splash at the 1994 Academy Awards by accepting her Oscar for The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert in a dress made out of 254 Gold Amex cards

"I was really happy during my wild, free childhood in Dubbo. I was a tomboy but at the same time I had an obsession with my mother’s shoes and clothes. For years, my two brothers and I had a gay nanny who would pick us up from school in a dress (he’d call it a caftan), turban and jewellery. I guess he was the one who instigated the dressing up and putting on shows."

At 12, Lizzy went to Pymble Ladies College in Sydney and  fell down a well of despair and depression.  Social situations are still difficult. At about 15, she started to stalk a woman called Donatella at the Italian consulate and desperately wanted to study fashion in Italy. Eventually Donatella cracked, and straight after the HSC she went to Florence to study fashion at the Academy of Italian Arts. After graduating she was due to work for Gianfranco Ferre but had an allergy to the pollution and came home to Australia

Old friend, Stephan Elliott wanted Lizzy and her creative partner Tim Chappel because he had seen their work on the TV show E Street, and they knew how to make a modest wardrobe budget. The movie was of course The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

The costumes were huge, colourful, flamboyant and outrageous reflecting both the flamboyance of the drag queen characters and showbiz and also each costume had an Australian element like the huge thongs or the essence of an Australian animal like the emu or frilly neck lizard.

When Tim Chappel (creative partner) and Lizzy were in LA for the awards, we were courted by the big designers to wear their outfits and she was just bored with the whole thing. At the last minute she decided to wear the Amex dress.  She created something of a stir when she showed up at the 1995 Awards Ceremony wearing a dress of her own design -- made entirely of American Express Gold cards -- and originally conceived for PRISCILLA, but shelved when American Express passed on the idea. However they relented when she later told them that she would wear the outfit to the ceremony. They were generous enough to supply 300 AmEx cards (according to Gardner she used 254) all with her name printed on them and all one number short as to make them all invalid. The famous dress was auctioned off in March of 1999 for $12,650. The proceeds went to the American Foundation for AIDS Research.

She had began in Australian television as a wardrobe assistant for "Jilted" (1987). She also supervised the wardrobe for the feature film WEEKEND WITH KATE (1990). THE ADVENTURES OF PRISCILLA, QUEEN OF THE DESERT was her first film as costume designer. Other design credits include BOUND (1996), WELCOME TO WOOP WOOP and GONE FISHIN' (both 1997), WOUNDINGS (1998), EYE OF THE BEHOLDER and THEORY OF THE TROJANS (both 1999), MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE II (2000), 6 episodes of "Effie: Just Quietly" (2001, TV series), STEALTH and THE GREAT RAID (both 2005), GHOST RIDER (2007), and CHAD CHUCKER (2008).

Lizzy had to be talked into doing the stage show of Priscilla. "It meant exiting the film industry for a long time but it ended up being the best decision I’ve made. It was difficult trying to live up to my reputation and the number of costumes was enormous, but I’ve grown creatively."


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