Back to Black Exhibition

Explore the different meanings of black across a century of fashion, from mourning a loved one, to the chic elegance of the little black dress, at Old Government House's new major exhibition Back to Black.

Wearing black is laden with cultural meaning, from suggesting chic elegance to mourning a loved one. This exhibition explores black’s different meanings in the past, while offering visitors the opportunity to reflect on their own relationship to wearing black in the present.

Historically most often associated with mourning, black was also a special-occasion selection for formal wear, receiving visitors, or for going out on the town. The fashion for black in the 1890s morphed into the little black dress from the 1920s flapper era to the 1950s New Look. Black has been an enduring staple of a fashionable wardrobe ever since.

Black clothing has also been adopted to express authority or to subvert and challenge it. The careful choice of colour in dress can make statements about class and gender, power and privilege, group affiliations and particularly subcultures, or be used to signal emotion.

Back to Black is collaboratively curated by fashion historian Dr Lorinda Cramer, NIDA costume alumna Lucy Francis, and the National Trust’s curator of Parramatta properties Anna Ridley. In drawing from the National Trust’s dress collection, the objects on display span more than 100 years. They include well-known designers – both Australian and international – alongside examples made in the home or by unknown, skilled dressmakers.

Come and join us in exploring black’s sartorial richness: from the passing of someone cherished, to preparing for the day, then promenading and partying into the night.



Exhibition images: Jenni Carter


Exhibition details

This exhibition runs Friday 15 March – Sunday 10 November 2024 in accordance with Old Government House opening hours and days, as listed below.

Last entry at 3.30pm for 4pm closing.

Access: Please note this exhibition is located on the top floor of Old Government House, up a flight of stairs, and throughout select rooms on the ground floor.


How to book your tickets

General Entry pricing as listed below applies. Your exhibition ticket grants full access to the house.

Book via Eventbrite where possible, to guarantee a spot.


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Dress in your Sunday best

Join other fashion lovers on the first Sunday each month at the Back to Black Fashion exhibition. Wear your favourite black outfit or accessory and become part of the exhibition. Take a picture and share it on social media using #sundaybestogh.

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Be a part of the exhibition

Submit your thoughts about wearing black, and what it means to you, plus upload a picture if desired. Share your story and visit Old Government House from Friday 15 March – Sunday 10 November 2024 to see how it is incorporated into a digital display within the Back to Black exhibition.




Please contact the property direct using the details below.


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Plan your visit

Old Government House


Parramatta Park, Pitt Street Entrance, Parramatta NSW 2150


Thursday and Friday 10am - 4pm, last entry 3:30pm
Saturday and Sunday 11am - 4pm, last entry 3:30pm


Good Friday, Anzac Day, King’s Birthday, Labour Day, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day

(02) 9635 8149
Entry Fees:

National Trust Members – FREE
Adult - $15
Concession* - $12
Family - $42
Child (under 5 years) – FREE
* Concession applies for full-time students, seniors, pensioners and children aged 5-15 years.

How to book your tickets
Tickets can be purchased at visitor reception or booked in advance to guarantee your spot. Booking fees apply.
Book a ticket now.
Terms and conditions of entry apply.

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