Stepping Out in Queen Street, Auckland, 1958

It was December 1958, and four young women stepped out in Queen Street, Auckland to celebrate their final day of training at Auckland Teachers’ Training College. They were June McMillan, Leigh Fountain, Jeanette Anderson and Margaret Bell, all aged nineteen. A street photographer took their photograph.


June was dressed in a multi-coloured cotton dress that she and her mother, a trained upholsterer had made. June had never had a shop-bought dress. A stiffened net half-slip made the gathered skirt of June’s dress stand out. She wore cream coloured low heeled court shoes and carried a long-handled umbrella. Long handled umbrellas were much desired at the time and June didn’t want to get her permed hair wet. Straight hair was not fashionable then; to be attractive, girls had to have curly hair.  June and her friends all wore nylon stockings held up with suspender belts - not always very comfortable. 


Leigh had made her dress too – a sheath dress. She’d had trouble getting the collar right but eventually managed. Leigh didn’t have to have a perm as her hair was naturally wavy, as was Margaret’s.


Jeanette’s sleeveless cotton dress was made by her older sister Amy, and was pink with bands of royal blue flowers with blue shoes to match. Like June she wore a stiffened net half-slip under her dress. Jeanette’s white necklace was made of ‘poppet beads’ which you could buy in any number and ‘pop’ together to make them the length you wanted. Jeanette wore her necklace knotted in the way often seen at the time. 


Amy was a trained dressmaker who served her apprenticeship at an exclusive salon in Vulcan Lane, where the showroom was at street level and the workroom upstairs. Before Amy could sew, Jeanette’s mother made her clothes. The only ready-made clothes Jeanette had ever had was a matching shorts and top set her mother bought her when she was about seven. How she’d loved those shorts and top. 


Margaret was the only one of the group in a two-piece, a floral pastel coloured matching skirt and top and white shoes. Her sweet smile matched her sweet nature.


How did they celebrate? They went to a coffee bar. These had only recently opened in any numbers in 1958. They had a look round the shops looking at dress materials and patterns in Gilroys and Barker and Pollocks. There were three department stores, Smith and Caughey, John Courts and Milne and Choyce for the group to browse around. Then it would be home on the bus. Celebration over. 


Jeanette de Heer


Photographer: Unknown
Model June McMillan, Leigh Fountain, Jeanette Anderson and Margaret Bell
Credit: Image loan courtesy of Jeanette de Heer
Copyright: Image © Jeanette de Heer
Maker: June McMillan, Leigh Fountain, Jeanette Anderson and Margaret Bell
Manufacturing location: Auckland, New Zealand
Garment type: 4 home made day dresses
Material: various printed cottons
Last published: June 2024
Date: December, 1958