Funeral fashion show to inspire conversation on death

Danse Macabre from Kat Pengelly's Fashion for Funerals – Putting the FUN into Funerals. Picture: Jeremy Bannister

Danse Macabre from Kat Pengelly's Fashion for Funerals – Putting the FUN into Funerals. Picture: Jeremy Bannister

Artist Kat Pengelly is hoping to create a cultural shift in the way death and grief are viewed with art show Fashion for Funerals – Putting the FUN into Funerals.

The multimedia theatrical fashion parade combines arts, psychology and science with the central theme of death to inspire conversation and provide greater support for the bereaved. 

Pengelly said the show had resonated with audiences.

“When I mention the title of the show, people’s eyebrows generally do raise but after the initial shock everyone is really interested to know what it’s about,” she said.

Ditchy's take.

Ditchy's take.

“Let’s talk about (death) and turn it into something that is not a taboo, you still need to endure the sadness but it need not be in isolation or without celebration.

“When you bring death to light and start to have conversations, it takes away a lot of the fear of the unknown.”

The idea of the show came to Pengelly after her mother died from cancer in 2013. 

“No one close to me had ever died before, so it was a huge shock the grief I experienced and I realised I had no coping strategies,” she said.

“My joke is that I looked good at my mum’s funeral, because I am artist I used my craft for catharsis to get through those intense feelings of grief.”

Pengelly created four collections after researching how death was approached across different cultures and eras. 

They include the Danse Macabre exploring the Middle Ages, Linen and Lace exploring the Victorian era, Blood Cells exploring death from the inside and Black Diamonds exploring the different ways to rest in peace. 

The fashion parade, which was piloted at the Nati (Natimuk) Frinj Biennale to audience acclaim in 2015, has been included in the international exhibition Romancing the Skull, currently on display at the Art Gallery of Ballarat. 

To fund the project, Pengelly is running a crowd funding campaign, which will create employment and professional development opportunities for regional artists and also raise money and awareness for cancer research and early detection. 

Fashion for Funerals runs from Thursday November 23 until Sunday November 26 at Helen Macpherson Smith Theatre. 

Ten per cent of show profits will be donated to the Fiona Elsey Cancer Research Institute in the hope of finding a cure. 

For more information or to buy tickets visit

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