Designing Dance – Five from the Shelf

by Jenny Butler
Wednesday 27th October 2010

Today we’re seeing some of the books that inspire the talented designers at The Australian Ballet.  For a double dose of inspiration be sure to check out Behind Ballet blog! – Jenny x

Above: The 5 books that inspire Vicki Car and to the right is a small selection of her design library

Self-confessed bowerbird Vicki Car is The Australian Ballet’s head of millinery. As well as an enviable collection of trims and treasures, Vicki’s sun-flooded workspace also boasts an impressive design library. Here, in no particular order, are some of her favourites…

The Complete Costume History

By Auguste Racinet

Lots of designers have Racinet’s reference book but this jumbo version is out of print. My husband bought it for me for my 40th birthday and I just love it. The linear drawings are fantastically useful for me, apart from the book being massive and beautifully coloured. Really, what’s not to like? I use it as a reference guide for shape, line, proportion, and a little for decoration. They’ve now done a smaller edition in two parts and it’s just not the same. I love the fact that I have this ludicrously enormous book that’s so full of loveliness.

Scenes from Sibella Court’s book Etcetera


By Sibella Court

Sibella Court
is an interior designer and a stylist and the first person I’ve come across who will collect balls of strings (something I would like to do, but stop myself). She also collects dolls heads, old scissors tools, barbed wire … It really takes the idea of one man’s trash to a whole other level. Sibella has a fantastic eye for the intrinsic beauty of things, and it’s an idea that vibrates really strongly for me. Just because things are industrial or functional doesn’t mean they can’t be beautiful as well.

Derek Jarman’s Garden

Derek Jarman

This book was given to me by my best friend in the UK, Polly. On the south coast of England in Kent, Derek Jarman had a house on this flat, weather beaten landscape. This book is the story of his garden and the house, but it’s also one of friends dying, AIDS, loss and rejuvenation. It’s quite unconventional as a garden, full of plants native to the area like kale and parsley. Jarman talks about the same plants dying off and coming back for 50-odd years; the idea of the earth recovering and life being cyclical. Even if it’s just a pot of herbs on your windowsill, I think that cycle actually slows you down enough to make you pay attention to what’s going on around you.

Tiaras – A History of Splendour

By Geoffrey C. Munn

When I worked at Covent Garden there was a tiara exhibition at the &A, so we went along as a work jolly. It was the most incredible collection. I bought every tiara book I could get my hands on, but this one is a particular favourite. At the time we were making the costumes for The Royal Ballet’s The Sleeping Beauty, one of their many Beauties. It was my first theatre millinery job and such an extraordinary time; it was where I learned everything I know. For me, this book represents that time. I love the sheer beauty of tiaras. They are so spectacular with carved and faceted stones, enamelling and pearls … the workmanship is incredible.

The Harvard Five in New Canaan

By William D Earls

This book isn’t mine – I bought it for my brother. In the last couple of years we’ve developed this absolute obsession with modernist architecture so every birthday and Christmas I buy him one of these books. One day, we will build a house. There’s something about the generosity of proportions and the openness of them. After all the detail and ornateness and sometimes clutter of what I do, all those sharp, clean lines is really appealing.

Interview and photos by  Kate Scott

by Jenny Butler
Wednesday 27th October 2010


  • Anne Rowse 6 years ago

    A glimpse into so many fabulous books which inspire.I imagine It must be rewarding to see the designs on stage.

  • Hila 6 years ago

    well, after reading this post, I’m going to have to track down these books.

  • Shirley 6 years ago

    Thanks for sharing with us Vicki. I’ll think a little bit more about the person behind some of the beautiful costumes we see on stage.

  • Julia 6 years ago

    I always love to read about design books. I’m building my own collection…slowly. I never knew there were whole books about tiaras!

  • Emma 6 years ago

    I LOVE books of all shapes and sizes … and this post has only inspired me more to seek out these particular gems! It must be rewarding to see one’s own fabulous ideas come to fruition in such a gorgeous setting.

  • Emma 6 years ago

    … WOW! And the Complete Costume History, I almost forgot … sounds DIVINE!

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