In the “swinging 60s,” your choices were simple: you were hip or you were hopeless (and horribly old-fashioned).
It was perhaps only 30 years from the depths of Depression fashion; but it could just as well have been another planet in another solar system.
On October 30, 1965, at Flemington Racecourse, a British model didn’t just throw another shrimp at the barbie, she nearly poured a gallon of petrol on her open flames.
Jean Shrimpton and her “scandalous” miniskirt – 10cm above her knees – nearly made women swoon in the Members’ Gallery.
Where were her gloves, her stockings, her modesty?
And the story unfolded across the world as fast as the cameras could click and shoot.
But the first casualty of any fashion war is always the truth.
The British bombshell isn’t about rewriting the future of fashion; she had only released what many considered “virtually nude” because her designer, Colin Rolfe, had run out of fabric before completing the dress they had planned.
To which she told him to finish it where it fell, adding, “no one will care.”
The Melbourne Cup, Derby, Cox Plate and Caulfield Cup owe their success today in part to fashion in general and this 23-year-old model in particular.
By the early 1960s, crowds at the Spring Carnival were dwindling so rapidly that the Victoria Racing Club came up with “field fashions” to attract more women to the track.
They paid Ms Shrimpton £2,000 to spend two weeks in Melbourne as the face of the race (the Beatles had only received £1,500 for their national tour the year before) and the rest is history .
This story will be on display at the Echuca Historical Society at its new exhibition – a celebration of Australian fashion from the 1930s to the 1960s.
The exhibit’s curator, Jan Hollingsworth, said the society had once again dug deep into the reserves and this time had brought out more treasures to display to museum visitors.
Jan said the 1930s were a time of the Great Depression and the start of World War II.
At the same time, she said it was also a time for partying and trying to forget the state of the world.
“1940s fashion was subdued until 1947; when Dior came on the scene with lavish designs – much to the horror of the average person who was tied down by ration coupons and a lack of funds,” Jan said.
“Although still wearing the pinched waist of the 30s and 40s, the 50s were colorful and extravagant.
“Already the emergence of the new breed of pop stars – particularly Elvis – was an important influence.
“In the 1960s, fashion was more comfortable, as the Beatles, Rolling Stones and the British Invasion became fashion leaders.
“Until that day in 1965 when ‘The Shrimp’ – the world’s first supermodel – made world headlines.”
Jan said menswear was a bit behind; but in the 60s, they were as fashion-conscious as women.
So what was Echuca wearing?
Well, you’ll have to go to the exhibit to find out; because the company’s exhibition team was able to add many local photographs for you to see and perhaps remember the occasions.
“Come join us on a trip down memory lane,” Jan said.
“As you walk through the museum, you’ll see dresses and gowns from these periods – and those baggy trousers that men preferred before paisley, purple, pink and flea became de rigueur for any young man in the 1960s.
“You’ll laugh at some of the exhibits, you might even cringe if you can recognize some of the things you might have worn that you thought were so hip and chic – and your kids and grandkids might enjoy it even more. this moment.
“The exhibit opens at the museum at 1 Dickson St, Echuca on February 1 – so be there or be square.”