Reading about the debacle that was the recent Miss Universe contest, when the compere crowned the wrong winner, I noticed that the Australia contestant had worn a costume that was based on Dame Edna Everage.
This may have been the only witty and interesting thing about the whole dreadful anachronism that is Miss Universe, but it did get me thinking about Australia’s national dress.
I think I saw it nailed earlier this year, when I drove past a group of teenagers leaving a music festival in Centennial Park.
Every single female, no matter what shape or size, was wearing cut-off denim jean shorts (Daisy Dukes), a black singlet top with low armholes that exposed her bra, and short boots.
A black floppy hat may or may not have been added to the look. No dresses, no hippy ensembles, no colour, no florals.
So where exactly does the rest of the stuff you see in Zara and H&M get worn? They seem to introduce all sorts of baffling new merchandise twice a week, and yet all I see on the streets and in the malls is cut-offs. Sometimes a denim mini which breaks the monotony. And the occasional playsuit.
I do understand the fashion conformity that is expected when you are a teenage girl trying to fit in. In my time it was just as rigid, although our choices were far less.
For a start, it had to be Dr Scholl’s wooden “health” sandals that now, as I think back, were heavy, noisy, difficult to walk in and ugly – the full catastrophe. I seem to recall they also had to be white.
I was desperate for a pair, but Mum wouldn’t buy them for me, as she had witnessed too many girls dragging their feet down the main street of Cronulla, exposing dry cracked heels. I’ve just realized the sneaky correlation between the Scholl’s shoes and the company’s foot care products. Cause and cure.
You had to have the right jeans of course, high waisted, flared, frayed, the cords had to be Amco, the shorts had to be Hawaiian print. Your jewellery choice was limited – white puka shell necklaces (horrible against anyone with skin that didn’t tan, and they made your teeth look yellow in comparison), bluebird necklaces and earrings, and stacks of cheap plastic Indian bracelets that we used to swap with each other during lunchtime at school.
For some insane reason the short-sleeved white cardigan was also de riguer, but there was even rigidity in the type of knit; there was a ribbed style and a semi crocheted style and NOTHING other than that.
You did not wear a one-piece swimming costume, no matter what, which caused any of us who didn’t have model figures to hate the beach with a passion. The idea of girls wearing board shorts, or a rashie, was unthinkable.
But there was one thing that we were allowed to make an individual decision on and that was hair.
When I look at girls now, they all have long, straightened hair, with barely any exceptions. It is so rare to see a young woman with short hair, with natural curls, with natural waves, or even a haircut that flatters and plays to her hair type, rather than a dead straight blowdry.
Okay, some of my generation’s more popular haircuts weren’t outstanding and I apologize for that Suzie Quatro shag I rocked when I was 11, but I’d love to see more variety amongst the Australian women of today.
Sure, Aussie guys have a uniform too – the shorter board shorts, the snapback hat, the singlet, and the coloured sunnies – but they definitely have more emphatic and interesting haircuts. And no jean shorts.