Barry Fife Blue Costume (detail). Photograph by Egmont Contreras
Barry Fife Blue Costume (detail). Photograph by Egmont Contreras
Barry Fife's blue tuxedo (detail). Photograph by Egmont Contreras
Stories & Ideas

Thu 04 Feb 2021

Barry Fife’s blue tuxedo from Strictly Ballroom: an American's gateway to Australian film

Behind the scenes Exhibition Film Personal Response Pop culture Preservation
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Holly Robbins

Assistant Registrar

Installing Barry Fife’s dazzling blue suit in our centrepiece exhibition takes assistant registrar Holly Robbins on a nostalgia trip through Baz Luhrmann’s oeuvre.

One look at the blue sequinned tuxedo worn by Bill Hunter as Barry Fife in Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom (1992), and I’m a teenager back in middle-America, renting this DVD from our local video store many years after the initial cinematic run.

Barry Fife Blue Costume - front
Barry Fife Blue Costume - back

Barry Fife's blue tuxedo (photographs by Egmont Contreras)

The nostalgic feelings I have for this film – probably the first Australian film I’d seen (outside the Crocodile Dundee series) – is something I’ve only recently come to appreciate. I instantly loved this movie: the costumes, the absurd characters, the rooftop dance sequence to ‘Time After Time’ … I had no idea at the time that I’d just seen the first of many films from Baz Luhrmann that would define different points on my journey into adulthood: I saw Romeo + Juliet three times at the theatre, watched the DVD too many times to count, and had the soundtrack on repeat in my CD player. Moulin Rouge! was a staple of late-night college dorm viewing and pizza-fuelled cringeworthy sing-alongs with my floormates. It wasn’t until I was helping dress the mannequin in Barry’s blue tuxedo jacket that I realised that Strictly Ballroom is where my love of Australian films began. And all these years after that first viewing, I find myself working at ACMI, installing costumes and props from these films that have had such an impact on my life.

– Holly Robbins, Assistant Registrar

See the blue tuxedo and other stunning costumes on display in our new centrepiece exhibition

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