The mini dress makes waves at the races

Swing­ing Six­ties model Jean Shrimp­ton causes a stir by bar­ing her knees

BBC History Magazine - - Anniversaries -

Derby Day, and Mel­bourne was agog. The Vic­to­ria Rac­ing Club had started a ‘Fash­ions on the Field’ event to at­tract younger visi­tors, and in 1965, they had pulled off a coup. At a cost of £2,000, tex­tile firm DuPont per­suaded Jean Shrimp­ton to fly from Lon­don to judge the fash­ion show.

To many in 1965, the 22-year-old Shrimp­ton was not just the world’s most cel­e­brated model. She was a sym­bol of moder­nity it­self, the em­bod­i­ment of Swing­ing Lon­don. No won­der the Aus­tralian press were ex­cited.

Shrimp­ton and her dress­maker, Colin Rolfe, de­signed a white shift dress us­ing DuPont’s new acrylic fab­ric, Or­lon. But they did not have enough so Rolfe had to cut it short, about four inches above the knee. Also, the day of her ap­pear­ance was hot. Shrimp­ton chose not to wear stock­ings, a hat or gloves.

She never imag­ined the fuss to come. When Shrimp­ton walked into the mem­bers’ lounge, there was a long, ap­palled si­lence. “There she was, the world’s high­est-paid model, snub­bing the iron-clad con­ven­tions at fash­ion­able Flem­ing­ton in a dress five inches above the knee, NO hat, NO gloves, and NO stock­ings!” gasped the Mel­bourne Sun News-Pic­to­rial.

Later, this was seen as the moment the mini-skirt was born, even though Shrimp­ton was ac­tu­ally wear­ing a dress. But to the Bri­tish press, the furore merely proved that Australia was decades be­hind the times. “Sur­rounded by sober draped silks and flo­ral ny­lons, ghastly tulle hats and fur stoles,” the Evening News said with­er­ingly, Shrimp­ton looked “like a petu­nia in an onion patch”.

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