Life & Style Weekend - - ESCAPE - WORDS: ANN RICKARD Read more of Ann’s mus­ings at an­nrickard.com

For all the years we lived in Mel­bourne, plans.we made it to the Mel­bourne Cup just the once. For many Mel­bour­ni­ans, Cup Day meant another pub­lic hol­i­day and un­less you were a rac­ing en­thu­si­ast you made other I re­mem­ber each year the lead-up to the Mel­bourne Cup was sat­u­rat­ing. For weeks be­fore the big day, our news­pa­pers and tele­vi­sions seemed to carry no news other than that as­so­ci­ated with horses and rac­ing. And fash­ion. Oh, the time ded­i­cated to fash­ion was ex­tra­or­di­nary. With Mel­bourne’s bipo­lar weather, no fash­ion­ista worth her fas­ci­na­tor would be caught with­out two out­fits. One light and flouncy in case Mel­bourne should turn on one of its dreaded 40-de­gree days, and one in case Mel­bourne de­cided to put on a hail­storm and strug­gled to find a tem­per­a­ture above 12 de­grees. Spring in Mel­bourne is feisty. From the be­gin­ning of Septem­ber to De­cem­ber the weather could be icy or swel­ter­ing. Or both. In one af­ter­noon. Even though most of Mel­bourne’s pop­u­la­tion did not make it to Flem­ing­ton, it did not mean there was a lack of in­ter­est. Tele­vi­sion sets were turned on first thing in the morn­ing to see what the fe­male pre­sen­ters were wear­ing, and to see if the fash­ion­istas in their ex­pen­sive out­fits were ei­ther be­ing blown to bits by a cold southerly or hot northerly wind. One thing was cer­tain, the weather played an enor­mous part in this spe­cial day and it still does. No mat­ter where we were on Cup Day, ev­ery­thing stopped at 3pm for the big race. Whether we were pic­nick­ing in the cold air of the Dan­de­nong Ranges, or splash­ing in the wa­ter on the beach at the Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula, we all kept an eye on the time. Tran­sis­tor ra­dios were then brought out and we sat silently lis­ten­ing to the call. If we were at home by the back­yard pool (or in­side around the fire), we would gather around the tele­vi­sion to watch the race. I never un­der­stood why one horse race was such a big deal and I never ques­tioned it. You were a Mel­bour­nian; Mel­bourne Cup was king of ev­ery­thing. I was a teenager in 1965 when the beau­ti­ful English model Jean Shrimp­ton shocked the coun­try by turn­ing up at the Mel­bourne Cup in a white mini dress and bare legs. She did not wear a hat or gloves. Sac­ri­lege. The now-leg­endary photo of the fresh, nat­u­ral, gor­geous young woman has Mel­bourne ma­trons in the back­ground. They were un­com­fort­able and weighed down be­neath heavy hats, hand­bags over their arms, gloves on their hands and thick stock­ings on their legs. They were all glar­ing at the lovely young woman in front of them. News­pa­per head­lines screamed the ‘legs that stopped a na­tion’ over the pho­to­graph, but ev­ery year af­ter, thou­sands of women for­got the stock­ings and the for­mal­ity. Do not ex­pect to see any­thing on the front page of news­pa­pers if it doesn’t re­late to Mel­bourne Cup at this time of year. Korea might threaten to send a nu­clear mis­sile across our bows. But that will not make it to the front page if a horse is not feel­ing chip­per or a fash­ion­ista has let slip what she might be wear­ing on the big day.


In a case of who wore it bet­ter, women in flo­ral head­pieces walk past cherry blos­soms at the Flem­ing­ton Race­course in Mel­bourne and, right, model Jean Shrimp­ton in her scan­dalous 1965 Ladies' Day out­fit with­out gloves or stock­ings.

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