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Dear Pageant Girl,

It’s official. I haven’t seen it rear its ugly head in a long time, but the Tall Poppy Syndrome (TPS) is alive and well.

Nowhere is it more evident than during that glorious time of year – the unveiling of our National Costume.

As laid back as we claim to be, I think it’s clear that at this time of the year, us Aussies love a blood bath.

Unveiled yesterday at a morning tea function in Melbourne, our reigning Miss World 2012 will be donning a fully beaded Indigenous inspired body suit accentuated by a scarlet ‘sarong’.  Julie Sufi, the brave woman who designed this outfit worked with Indigenous silk artist Eva Wanganeen.

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In the last day or so (and as to be expected) we have had a melee of ‘fashionistas’ jump on the hater train to have their two cents published.  Regular commentator at this time of the year, one of our favorite couturiers, Alex Perry never fails to recycle his favorite catchphrase – “very un-Australian”.

“I never knew Egyptian sea urchins were Australian?  The creators of Avatar called, they want their catsuit back,” he said.

Seriously, Alex I expected more from you.

For someone who has dressed beauty queens for years, you really should know better.

I have personally met Alex a few times and he’s a real sweetheart but Dear Pageant Girl takes no prisoners and this is the time of year when our little love affair becomes a little tested.

Another designer (one who shall remain unnamed and is famously known to be one of the most hated in her season of Project Runway Australia) asks “why does our national costume always need to be so cringe-worthy?”

It is this kind of public professional assassination that stops some of our most talented designers from taking on the challenge.

Sylvia Lee, the red carpet couturier that designed Scherri Biggs’ controversial gown for the Miss Universe 2011 pageant says “I would never take on the challenge. It’s become like a sport now to criticize and make fun of the national costume of pageants.”

And she is right.  It’s cool to shoot down it down.

Many reporters and commentators find it cool to bash without truly knowing the background of the Miss World or Miss Universe contests. ‘Fashion experts’ call for something more ‘Australian’.  An elegant interpretation of the singlet, shorts and ugg perhaps?

I think we need a bit of education here kids, so pay attention to mama.

The national competition is the world’s first impression of the competing nation in a beauty pageant.  First impressions count.  While this part of the show is not officially judged and the scores do not determine whether or not a contestant becomes a finalist, it is judged by an even tougher crowd – the worldwide television audience.

To succeed and be noticed in the National Costume segment, it must be high camp, high glitz, very loud and eye catching.

It’s all about the glitter, the sequins, the feathers and the yards and yards of colorful fabric.

Miss Paraguay 1992 holds the record for having the biggest and heaviest national costume (rumor has it that the costume came in 5 boxes and had to be assembled on stage).  If you watch the footage of the Parade of Nations, poor Miss Paraguay was relegated to one side of the stage the entire time as she literally could not move!

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Yes, us Aussies haven’t fared very well at the national costume segment of the major pageants.  Could it be that we are lacking a national identity?

Unlike our Asian neighbours Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, Korea etc who have an established ‘national costume’ we Aussies seem to be lacking in the glamour stakes when it comes to representing ourselves on the pageant stage.

Besides, how glamorous can an akubra get.  How sexy can you really make a singlet, thongs and VB?  As much as we would love to use Indigenous inspired outfits, many of our designers just can’t be bothered going through the protocol of asking for permission and collaborating with an Indigenous artist.  So strict are the rules that they can’t even appropriate or be ‘inspired’ by a design.

And rightly so.

It is with this kind of dilemma that our designers face and unfortunately, left to their own creative devices, our designers come up with the most abstract artsy fartsy concoctions.

Case in point – Laura Dundovic’s layered ‘gown’ in 2008 by Jayson Brunsdon (can I hear a WTF?)

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and Rachael Finch’s outback meets the Opera House Vegas gown in 2009 (I still don’t get it).

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Feast your eyes on some of our recent representations:

Remember Jennifer Hawkins’ gun metal grey strapless ball gown with a print of the Sydney CBD by Paris Dwyer in 2004?

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No, of course you don’t.

Or Erin McNaught’s Crocodile Dundee/Outback stripper outfit in 2006  (yawn)

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Let’s not forget the uninspired Baywatch swimming costume worn in 2007 by Kimberley Busteed (which by the way was worn first by Miss Universe Australia contestant Renee Henderson in 1998).  Recycling at its best.

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But possibly the worse of all was the monstrous excuse for a national costume by Michelle Guy in 2005.

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Dear Pageant Girl finally let out a sigh of relief in 2010 when Natasha Dwyer of Arther Avenue came along with the high heeled ugg, the shearling vest and the bikini with the Indigenous print on it.  Finally! A creative interpretation of our cultural identity.

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And now we have Julie Sufi of Belluccio and her stunning creation for Jessica Kahawaty. We have waited long enough for an interpretation of our Indigenous culture that went beyond a swimsuit print, and here we are.  Respectful, and glamorous.

What more can you ask for?

Ease up ‘fashionistas’.

Fashion’s meant to be fun, remember?

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