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Theatre costume

  • Place of origin:

    Australia (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    1976 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Humphries, Barry (designer)
    McKee, Lorraine (milliner)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Nylon, net, lace, tinsel ribbon, satin, straw, diamanté, canvas and rayon

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Barry Humphries

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Theatre & Performance, Room 105, case 11

Sometimes comedians will invent outrageous characters who take on lives of their own. Dame Edna Everage, created and played by Australian comedian Barry Humphries, has become a star of stage, television and film in her own right and apparently has an existence independent of her creator. Edna, a lady of uncertain age who can be instantly recognised by her exaggerated spectacles, menacing smile and interesting dress sense, is, if her website is to be believed, 'probably the most popular and gifted woman in the world today'. She began her career in 1955, appearing in a comedy revue in Humphries's home town of Melbourne as average suburban housewife Mrs Norm Everage. When her creator moved to London in 1959 Edna accompanied him and appeared at the comedy club, The Establishment. The performance received bad reviews but Humphries was supported by the club's owner, satirist Peter Cook, and continued to make appearances as Mrs Everage. It was in the mid 1970s that Edna, now a dame, at last achieved success, and notoriety, with her stage show Housewife Superstar!, seen in London's West End in 1976. The 'silly, ignorant self-satisfied Melbourne housewife' who began as a satire on celebrity, had acquired international celebrity herself.

Dame Edna has never confined her appearances to the stage and screen and in 1976 she attended the race meeting at Royal Ascot. Ascot is famous for fashion and the ladies' hats have become as newsworthy as the races. Edna attracted attention in this magnificent creation based on Sydney Opera House, a building which has come to symbolise Australia. Here the distinctive outline is represented by simple curves of stiffened satin. The sea of net and satin which is Sydney Harbour is enlivened with yachts and a diamanté-toothed shark. The maker, milliner Lorraine McKee, went on to create hats for films, notably Dangerous Liaisons (1988) and The Madness of King George (1994).

Physical description

'Sydney Opera House' Ascot hat worn by Barry Humphries in character as Dame Edna Everage. Exaggerated picture hat. The underside of the very wide brim is lined with white nylon broiderie anglaise, with a turquoise net bow edged with white lace to one side; the outer edge of the brim is edged with purple tinsel braid. The upper side of the brim is covered with blue and purple satin, with turquoise net, pink straw and white lace, simulating the sea and waves, set with a shark's head with diamanté studded teeth, and six white canvas miniature yachts. The crown is draped with beige rayon twill, surmounted with stiffened white satin in the form of the Sydney Opera House.

Place of Origin

Australia (possibly, made)


1976 (made)


Humphries, Barry (designer)
McKee, Lorraine (milliner)

Materials and Techniques

Nylon, net, lace, tinsel ribbon, satin, straw, diamanté, canvas and rayon


Height: 41 cm, Width: 120 cm, Depth: 50 cm

Object history note

This hat was worn by Barry Humphries in character as Dame Edna Everage at the Royal Ascot race meeting in 1976.

Descriptive line

'Sydney Opera House' Ascot hat worn by Barry Humphries in character as Dame Edna Everage, 1976.


Nylon; Net (textile); Lace; Tinsel ribbon; Satin; Straw; Diamanté; Canvas; Rayon




Entertainment & Leisure; Stage costumes; Hats & headwear


Theatre and Performance Collection

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