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2004/64/1 Film costume, 'Ned Kelly', ensemble including clothing and armour with trolley, cloth / metal / rubber, worn by Heath Ledger as Ned Kelly in the film 'Ned Kelly', designed by Anna Borghesi, produced by Working Title Australia, Australia, 2002. Click to enlarge.

Costume used by Heath Ledger in the "Ned Kelly" movie

This costume is considered to be important because of its use in the 2003 film 'Ned Kelly'. It also has significance due to its local design and manufacture, its excellent original condition and its potential for display in a variety of thematic contexts including Australian film-making and the legend of Ned Kelly.

As a group, the costumes help to document the film, its characters and actors. In their design and fabrication they exemplify excellence in recent Australian film craft. Anna …


Object No.


Object Statement

Film costume, 'Ned Kelly', ensemble including clothing and armour with trolley, cloth / metal / rubber, worn by Heath Ledger as Ned Kelly in the film 'Ned Kelly', designed by Anna Borghesi, produced by Working Title Australia, Australia, 2002

Physical Description

Film costume, "Ned Kelly", ensemble including clothing and armour with trolley. The costume worn beneath armour consisting of:

Undershirt, fawn, long sleeves, three fawn buttons on pink placket. Costumier's label attached at neck by heat seal with the text 'Ned Kelly. Heath Ledger. Character: Ned Kelly. Size. Glenrowan.' Purchased, not made from scratch.

Shirt, light pink with long tail and sleeves, four buttons, collarless, long cuffs with one button, placket front. Costumier's label attached at neck by heat seal with the text 'Ned Kelly. Heath Ledger. Character: Ned Kelly. Size. Glenrowan.'

Cuff links (pair), each consisting of two pieces of silver metal engraved 'NK', joined by a chain. Modern style.

Trousers, black wool with thin white vertical stripes, flat fronts. Tab with metal buckle attached at back of waist. Two pockets at front, concealed buttoned fly. Costumier's label attached at neck by heat seal with the text 'Ned Kelly. Heath Ledger. Character: Ned Kelly. Size. Glenrowan.'

Waistcoat, speckled black front in soft [moleskin-like] fabric, dark grey back. Double-breasted. Eight buttons. Tab with buckle at rear. Costumier's label attached at neck by heat seal with the text 'Ned Kelly. Glenrowan. Character: Ned Kelly. Size. (Heath Ledger).'

Jacket, black woollen coat with three buttons. Lined. Costumier's label attached at neck by heat seal with the text 'Ned Kelly. Heath Ledger. Character: Ned Kelly. Size. Glenrowan.'
Overcoat. Green woollen military-style overcoat with green lining. Frayed collar. No pockets. Tab attached to back. Vent in back. According to the costume designer, Heath Ledger wore this overcoat in some Glenrowan scenes but not beneath his armour. Fair condition.

Sash, silk, green with trimming of gold cord (bullion fringe) at both ends. Worn by Heath Ledger beneath his armour during the Glenrowan shootout scenes.

Set of metal Kelly gang armour consisting of helmet, breastplate, backplate and apron (also known as a lappet):

Helmet made of two pieces of metal bolted and hot forged together. Piece of foam (for wearer's comfort) inside forehead and rear of head.

Breastplate shaped to fit body. Six rivets down front. Two slots at left and right breast for two leather straps with metal buckles that attach the breastplate to the backplate. Held together with bolts and hot forging.

Backplate has six rivets down back. Two sideplates are attached with three bolts.

Apron is attached via two slots for three lengths of metal wire twisted as a fastener.

Trolley for carrying armour, red steel with black pneumatic rubber tyres. Trolley has been modified to carry the armour, with supports covered in tape and foam. In black lettering the text 'Ned 2' has been written at top of trolley. Armour is held in place with silver chain and gold padlock.



Designed by Anna Borghesi. A graduate of NIDA in costume design for film and theatre, Borghesi developed her craft in costume and set design for theatre. Her theatre credits include over forty productions, including eight with director Neil Armfield. Her first film was 'Romper Stomper', for which she received an AFI award nomination. She has since received AFI award nominations for 'Body Melt', 'Metal Skin', Jan Chapman's 'Love Serenade', 'The Well' and 'Head On', before winning the AFI Best Costume Design award for 'Ned Kelly' in 2003. She worked on the American films 'Pitch Black' and 'Don't Peek'. Steven Jones Evans won the AFI award for Best Production Design for 'Ned Kelly'.

Designing period costumes for 'Ned Kelly' was a major undertaking. The initial step was to determine broadly the look and feel of the costumes. In an interview with 'AFI Insider' magazine Borghesi said 'The film presents many challenges because it is set over a ten year period, it has lots of stunts (requiring doubles) and 100 speaking parts. It also has a very particular look which I have worked on with Gregor and Steven Jones Evans (Production Designer). It's a very controlled, bleak feel. We've tried to capture the severity and oddness of the period - such as the death of Prince Albert (mourning clothes) and the differences between the Irish and the English.' (Anna Borghesi quoted in 'AFI Insider' magazine, Winter 2002).

'My approach has always been to embrace the whole process and connect with the film; the entire story and the characters. The job is all about giving up your ideas, not hanging onto them or feeling threatened by contributions from other people.' (Anna Borghesi quoted in 'AFI Insider' magazine, Winter 2002).

Borghesi strove for historical accuracy by carrying out careful research into colonial dress of the 1870s to bring a sense of authenticity of the costumes. 'What I tried to do is maintain the cut of the period costume, but give it a little bit of a relaxed feel. I'm not really interested in creating a final look, it's really up to the actor to get into the character - what I do is just give them a skin and then they need to sort out what happens after that.' (Anna Borghesi quoted in the film's official website at:

The process of bleach bypass in post-production affected the designer's choice of colours for costumes. This process takes the crimson out of the film stock. For this reason some of the costumes may not appear to be in accurate colours for the 1870s.

With the exception of Ned and Joe's undershirts which were purchased by the costume buyer, all these costumes were made from scratch by the film's costume department using modern fabrics, working as a team.
Costume supervisor: Joanne Wilson
Costume coordinator: Brianna Mann
Costume stand-by: Jill Guice, Roberta Shaw
Assistant costume stand-by: Samantha Edwards Van Gyen, Peter Paul
Additional costume stand-by: Peter Woodward
Costume buyer: Louise McCarthy
Costumiers: Judy Bunn, Terry Thorley, Alison Hills, Jindra Korinek, Alison Fowler
Costume makers: Sophie Guerrier, Jocelyn Creed, Cathryn Ashton, Jane Summers-Eve, Lyn Van Beusichem, Stephanie Van Gastel
Machinist: Brigita Brand
Millinery co-ordinator: Susan Rigg
Milliner: Mandy Murphy
Leather worker: Brendan Dwyer
Costume assistants: Jessie Bush, Veronica Csosz, Pettie Danos, Zoe Fox, Julie Nixon, Shane Phillips
Costume runner: Justin Brow

The armour was designed by Anna Borghesi and made by the film's armour makers Jonathan Leahey and Dylan Thornton, assisted by Janet Zepnick and Tim Farmer (armour maker's assistants), Jim Norris (blacksmith), Tim Kelly (blacksmith's assistant) and Roger Mitchell (fibreglass castings).

Anna Borghesi, Jonathan Leahey and Dylan Thornton were granted access to the Kelly gang's original suits of armour. The real armour was made of forged iron from ploughshares, leather and iron bolts. The approximate total weight of armour (in three pieces) and helmet was 41.4 kg. Patterns were taken from the pieces of real Kelly armour at Old Melbourne Gaol, at the State Library of Victoria, at the Victorian Police Museum, and from the complete set of Joe Byrne's armour in the possession of a private owner Rupert Hammond. Research on the armour for the film coincided with forensic tests which attempted to sort out which pieces of armour were worn by which gang members. This research ended 120 years of uncertainty about the location and configuration of the four suits of armour used by the Kelly gang. There was an exchange of pieces between the State Library of Victoria and Victorian Police Museum in 2002.

Anna Borghesi took plastic patterns from the originals. Jonathan Leahey and Anna Borghesi consolidated the look of the armour through fittings, shaping the armour to fit the actors. While historical integrity was important, dramatic integrity took precedence. Borghesi describes the sets of armour made for the film as adaptations rather than replicas of the originals. She told the Museum 'It was important to theatricalise what we did'. The armour is made from 4mm and 5mm steel, whereas some of the originals are as thick as 7mm. The visor slit on Steve Hart's real armour is bigger than on the replica. It was altered to accommodate his diminutive stature. Such a wide visor would have looked unconvincing on the screen, so it was made smaller to preserve the dramatic effect.

The armour was hot forged over fire, as the Kellys had done. Jonathan Leahey made Ned and Dan Kelly's armour at Guildford. Dylan Thornton made Steve and Joe's armour at Avalon.

Two sets of metal armour were made for each of the four members of the Kelly gang. It was intended that one set would be worn by the actors and one worn by the stuntmen (referred to by Borghesi as 'stunties'). However both sets were worn on the set by both groups (actors and stuntmen). This confirms that the armour in this acquisition was worn by the actors.

A set of fibreglass armour was made for each Kelly gang actor in case they could not manage with wearing the heavy metal sets. In the end, the actors preferred to wear the heavy, 4mm-thick steel armour and the fibreglass sets were only ever worn by actor 'doubles'.

The trolleys used to carry the armour on the set were purchased and modified by Jonathan Leahey.



The costume's provenance (as a donation from the film's producer) is clear. It was made in 2002 for the film 'Ned Kelly' and donated to the Powerhouse Museum in 2003. This costume was worn by Heath Ledger who played the character of Ned Kelly. It was worn in the Glenrowan scenes, including the scenes where Ned wears his armour.

Gregor Jordan's film 'Ned Kelly' had its premiere in Melbourne on 22 March 2003. It was the tenth film about the exploits of the Kelly gang. The first appeared famously in 1906 and is regarded by many as the first feature film. Jordan's 'Ned Kelly' was an Australia/UK/USA co-production produced by Working Title UK, Working Title Australia, Endymion Films, United International Pictures USA. Post-production took place in the UK. It was distributed by Universal Pictures.

A mixture of fact, fiction and poetic licence, Jordan's film is based on Robert Drewe's 1991 novel 'Our Sunshine'. The film covers the period from Ned as a teenager being arrested for possessing a stolen horse to the Kelly gang's armour-clad battle at Glenrowan. Heath Ledger's performance as a benign, conscientious Ned Kelly is passionate and has a depth of character. The Naomi Watts character is entirely fictitious.

'Ned Kelly' received nine nominations for the 2003 AFI awards, as follows:
Gregor Jordan for Best Direction
Heath Ledger for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Orlando Bloom for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Steven Jones-Evans for Best Production Design (WINNER)
Oliver Stapleton BSC for Best Cinematography
John Michael McDonaugh for Best Screenplay Adapted from another Source
Jon Gregory ACE for Best Editing
Gary Wilkins, Colin Miller AMPS, Adrian Rhodes & Chris Burden for Best Sound
Anna Borghesi for Best Costume Design (WINNER)


Credit Line

Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program by Working Title Australia, 2004

Acquisition Date

31 March 2004

Cite this Object


Costume used by Heath Ledger in the "Ned Kelly" movie 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 1 July 2022, <>


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