'Talk About Experimenting': Maria Thattil Ventures Into New Territory With NGV Gala Outfit

The model will wear a custom-made Con Ilio gown.

Maria Thattil

She may have been crowned Miss Universe Australia in 2020, but like many South Asian women, Maria Thattil has embarked on a long journey of self-discovery to reach a point where she feels comfortable in her own skin.

As she prepares to attend the prestigious NGV Gala in Melbourne on Saturday, December 2, Thattil says she's proud to be very experimental in her look, entrusting designer Con Iliopoulos of couture label, Con Ilio to create a custom-made gown that celebrates her body and who she is as a person.

"Talk about experimenting… I’m going to look very different! We are changing something up with my look entirely that I’ve never done before," Thattil said in a statement provided to Draw Your Box.

"Red carpets for me, are an opportunity to showcase the calibre of local designers. I have worked in collaboration with Con Ilio and my stylist Meggy Smith to design this look that pushes the boundaries and is different and BIGGER than anything I have ever worn on a red carpet before."

Held at the National Gallery of Victoria, the black-tie event celebrates the start of the gallery's summer exhibition, the NGV Triennial 2023.

With the exhibition celebrating the role of spirituality, the natural world and history in shaping human culture, Thattil and Con Ilio's vision was to create a look that pays homage to this.

Maria Thattil NGV Gala 2023

Image Source: Instagram/

"We wanted to create an ethereal, otherworldly look that looks like natural materials sculpted to and ruched around my body," said the model.

"Bolder and bigger than any red carpet look we have done before, the look rises to the occasion honouring the incredible work of 120 artists, designers and collectives who are at the forefront of global contemporary practice."

Of course, attention to detail was key in constructing this intricate design that promises to turn heads on the night. The designer explained that the skirt itself is made from 37 metres of silk taffeta to complement a more structured bodice.

“The dress is constructed like a house – we started with the frame which was corseted underwear sculpted to Maria’s body," said the designer. "To build the bodice, I manipulated the fabric with heat and steam and moulded it to a corset.

"To keep the dress light, it is supported by a cage of rings underneath the skirt, spaced every 12mm circulating the hip."

Some of the biggest names in fashion, business and media will attend the NGV Gala, so we'll be keeping our eyes peeled for a wave of stunning red carpet looks... and of course, Thattil's!