90 Years of Gardams – The History of the Queensland family business

How It All Began

Gardams Fabric Store has been part of a long-held tradition of dressing brides in Queensland for 90 years. The family business was started by Bert Gardam who arrived in Queensland as a ward of the state in 1921. At just 16 years of age and with only 10 shillings in his pocket, Bert obtained work on a sheep station and began selling women’s apparel from a suitcase before founding what would become an iconic bridal store. In 1930, Bert established Gardams Silk Store on Edward Street in Brisbane.

Becoming a Household Name

Over the following decades, Gardams became recognised as a household name and the place to go for high quality fabrics and the most up-to-date fashionable bridal dress designs. Gardams opened stores in Townsville, 1969, and Southport in the late 1970s. During the 1980s Gardams expanded their bridal department to include off-the-rack gowns, men’s wear and bridal and suit hire.

Ewan and Dorothy Gardam at exhibition I Do! Wedding Stories from Queensland

The key to success was adapting to the times and diversifying to make use of family talent.

-Ewan Gardam-

They also ran a travel agency, assisting clients with bookings for honeymoons, car hire, venues and photography. During this time, Gardams also began organising what were some of the first bridal fairs held in Australia.

Mannequins showcasing bridal designs inside Gardams store, Queen Street, Brisbane. Courtesy of Ewan and Dorothy Gardam

The Gardams Difference

One of Gardams’ long held traditions has been to wrap fabric for customers in a paper-parcel tied together with string. Initially staff used brown paper which, in the 1960s, evolved into green printed paper containing the iconic Gardams logo. In the 1990s this changed to blue printed paper.

The paper cutter has been a constant and has been in use for well over 50 years.

A rotary cutter is used to cut multiple layers of fabric when making a garment. Gardams workroom staff have used this rotary cutter since the 1960s.

Many brides who have had their gowns made by Gardams may recognise the decorative white folder containing information including a sketch of a bridal dress design with specifications and quotes.

Happy 90 year anniversary to Gardams! If you would like to learn more about the history and story of this long-standing family business, come and visit our latest exhibition I Do! Wedding Stories of Queensland. Tickets from $10 Adult and $8 Concession. Book Now.