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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