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[Caption: ]  Fashion parade, Wellington Town Hall, 1957 (photographer: Morrie Hill. 1/2-177273-F, Alexander Turnbull Library).The 1950s was a pros­per­ous time. Loc­al fash­ion design­ers and cloth­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers were keen that those with money spent it on their products. They were par­tic­u­larly irked by the assump­tion that for­eign labels were always bet­ter. In response, the loc­al industry organ­ised a nation­al “pre­lude to spring” fash­ion parade, the first of its kind.

The gala open­ing was in Wel­ling­ton. Efforts were made to trans­form the famil­iarly staid Town Hall with cab­aret seat­ing and a ramp down the middle. New Zea­l­and themes were stressed, with a Māori wel­come from Mira Szászy and nat­ive foliage all over the stage. After the show, the guests enjoyed a din­ner of New Zea­l­and cuisine (includ­ing toheroa soup, Bluff oysters, ven­ison and pavlovas). It was all quite innov­at­ive for the time, even if the clothes them­selves were strongly influ­enced by over­seas examples.

The sev­en mod­els cruised the stage, show­ing off swim­suits and cas­u­al clothes, even­ing gowns, bridal wear and cock­tail dresses. Styles were described as going for the gentle and soft look, “a return to truly fem­in­ine styles”. Split dresses and well-fit­ting hip­lines were pop­u­lar, and the favoured col­ours were blues, yel­lows “and beige tones from wild rice to the new taupe”.

Here, a very Grace Kelly-like mod­el shows off a pink chif­fon gown inspired, the audi­ence was proudly told, by Cecil Beaton’s state-of-the-art frock designs for Broadway’s My Fair Lady.

(Repro­duced from David’s 2011 book Wel­ling­to­ni­ans: from the Turn­bull Lib­rary col­lec­tions.)

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