Historical information

This suit was tailor-made for Latvian dancer, choreographer and dance teacher Vija Vetra, who lived at the Old Hall, 93-95 Bay Street, Brighton and ran a dance academy at 97 Bay Street during the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Born in Riga, Latvia in 1923, at the age of sixteen Vija ran away from home in order to study classical, character and modern dance at the Vienna Academy of Music and Performing Arts. She spent several years performing on European stages.

When Latvia was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1944, more than 100,000 Latvians fled, seeking refuge in neighbouring countries. Vija's sister, mother and aunt were among them, managing to join her in Vienna. The following year, all four had to flee again when the Soviets moved into Austria. Escaping to Bavaria, they spent three years in displaced person camps before emigrating to Sydney as refugees in 1948.

Vija found success as a dancer in Sydney. She toured Australia and New Zealand with the Bodenwieser Ballet, formed a Latvian folk dancing group and established a dancing school. By the mid-1950s she had gained recognition as a recitalist in her own right. She developed a passion for Indian classical dance.

In the late 1950s she moved to Victoria. She opened a dance school in Bay Street, Brighton, while continuing to perform on stage in productions such as the musical 'Kismet' and the ballet 'Corroboree'. In 1959 she starred in the four-part live ABC television program 'Music and Dance'. She left Australia in 1964 for a tour of the United States and Canada, ultimately settling in New York City.

Interviewed in the 'ABC Weekly' in 1957, Vetra described her taste in clothing as minimalist, saying she preferred to own as few clothes as possible to save the trouble of deciding what to wear: "And no bows or extravagances, but always a simple line."

Physical description

Two-piece women's suit made of maroon corded silk; comprising fitted jacket (.1) and straight skirt (.2). Jacket fastens with one large black faceted glass button. Jacket lined with pink satin; skirt unlined.