Gown Of The Year

1958–1964

Every spring, between 1960 and 1964, a convoy of silver caravans emblazoned with the words 'Fashion on Wheels – New Zealand Gown of the Year Contest', travelled the country, bringing with it "an atmosphere of gaiety and glitter, chandeliers and champagne".

The convoy, including a compere, a musical director and a bevy of beautiful young models, brought a flurry of excitement to every town they visited. New Zealand Gown of the Year, the brainchild of Tam Cochrane, fashion promoter, was a fashion extravaganza that wowed audiences across the country and for the first time placed an event celebrating New Zealand-designed fashion on the social calendar of towns and cities.

The winner was chosen by public vote. Entries came from dressmakers and designers with their own salons and included names like Babs Radon (Barbara Herrick), Emma Knuckey, Michael Mattar and Rosemarie Muller.

Text © Claire Regnault. Excerpts from her book, The New Zealand Gown of the Year. Banner image of the Gown of the Year competition at Gisborne Memorial Hall, 5 October 1961. Image © Gisborne Photo News.

Last published November 2013.

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