“Flying Dutchman” Millinery sets sail for the Riverina

Now showing at the Museum of the Riverina

Several months ago RMA Vice president, Rose Organ came to me with the idea of presenting highly acclaimed Milliner, Phillip Rhodes’ delightful work for the Victorian Opera’s 2015 production of Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman” to the Museum of the Riverina, (situated in the Historical Council Chambers in Wagga Wagga).

Phone calls and meetings with the Museum Manager, Luke Grealy and a trek to Phillip’s studio in South Melbourne ensued, with the final result being a gorgeous display of beautiful theatrical bonnets for the Museum foyer, resplendant in silks, velvets, delightful ribbon motifs and curled ostrich feathers.

I spoke to Phillip with regard to his millinery approach to the commission of producing the Bonnets for the stage…

” The Victorian Opera production was presented at the 1920’s Picture Palace, the Palais in St Kilda, Melbourne.   The Flying Dutchman was set in a fishing village and the Designer wanted bonnets for the Chorus. There were 16 in all and I managed to get 9 out of archive. Once the costumes go into storage it can be difficult to find them again. These bonnets are a little shop worn now after a season in the theatre.

It was a big stage and a big theatre.  The Designer wanted lush dresses and the bonnets were lush so they all looked quite good in a flock”

More About “The Flying Dutchman” Production:

The Victorian Opera’s 2015 production of The Flying Dutchman at the Palais Theatre, in St Kilda, was intent on capturing rolling seas slapping against heaving ships and skies that faded from ominous grey to hopeful bright light.

Originally completed in 1841, The Flying Dutchman is an Opera set on a ghost ship, doomed to sail the ocean until love could break its curse. Full of wind, water and fury, Wagner’s classic had a visual ambition to match its stirring score – a world that is often difficult to realise on the stage.

This pioneering Victorian Opera production, which marked the 10th Anniversary for the Company, required the audience to wear 3D glasses in order to view the images projected on huge screens surrounding the stage and one became instantly immersed in the turmoil of the mythical Dutchman coming ashore beneath the Norwegian cliffs.

The Museum of the Riverina Exhibition will run until the end of June, 2017.

The RMA will be holding a 3 day millinery intensive workshop with Phillip on the 4th, 5th and 6th August, 2017.

Phillip Rhodes




Phillip Rhodes is one of the last Australian milliners to receive traditional workroom training. After achieving a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Art History from Monash University in the early 1980s, Phillip immersed himself in the draconian world of the millinery workroom.

Phillip has taught millinery extensively throughout the last decade, in addition to eight years as a lecturer in RMIT’s Bachelor of Design (Fashion). For twenty years, he has maintained faith with his artisan craft by producing original hat ranges for major stores and boutiques, as well as individual creations for his private clientele, from his Melbourne workrooms. He is currently working on a commission for the Melbourne production, Hello Dolly.