Historical information

This dress was worn by Brighton's first female mayor, Councillor Di Lopez, to a Mayoral Ball held at Brighton Technical School in 1976. Diane Margaret Lewis completed a law degree at the University of Melbourne, later marrying one of her classmates, criminal lawyer Ramon (Ray) Lopez. A strong believer in open local government, when she decided to run for the Brighton City Council in 1975 she rallied friends and supporters in an extensive door-knocking campaign, ultimately succeeding in unseating former mayor Keith Davenport. She went on to serve two terms on council, between 1975 and 1981, and was elected mayor by her fellow councillors in 1976. The first woman in Brighton's history to hold the title of mayor, Di championed women's representation in local government, declaring that "all council issues affect women - except a men's toilet". She was a member of the Women's Electoral Lobby and encouraged both Sally Allmand and Kate Harman to run for council (both were successfully elected). As a councillor and as mayor, Di initiated many local projects, including the creation of a bike path along Nepean Highway and the first Brighton Festival, while balancing family life and a demanding 'day job' as personal assistant to Victorian Minister for Youth, Sport and Recreation Brian Dixon. Di was known as a colourful, flamboyant figure who was unafraid to address issues head-on. This is exemplified by this unconventional choice of dress for the a Mayoral Ball, which typically had a formal dress code. By eschewing a traditional ball gown in favour of this wild, feathered chamois, she was not only making a fashion statement, but a political one - declaring an intention to lead a progressive council, embracing the new and refusing to be hemmed in by dated traditions.


This dress has local historical significance for its association with Brighton's first female mayor, Councillor Di Lopez, who wore it to a Mayoral Ball in 1976. The dress exemplifies her flamboyant reputation, modern outlook and willingness to break norms. At the time, the dress was a radical choice for a Mayoral Ball, where women typically wore formal evening gowns. With her choice of dress, Cr Lopez was making a public statement, breaking away from dated traditions and announcing her intention to bring the Mayor's office into the 1970s. In this way, the dress also points to the wider social and political changes taking place both in Brighton and across Australia during the mid-1970s.

Physical description

Three quarter length chamois dress circa 1974. Machine stitched with a v-neck and full length sleeves and an uneven raw hem, the dress is decorated with narrow thongs of chamois embellished with red beads and blue feathers. The open-fronted bodice is laced with red ribbon and the skirt is decorated with a large blue wool cross stitch and a combination of blue wool and purple ribbon cross stitch. Made in the style of an Indian 'Wild West Dress'.