A beauty pageant judge has called out Kiwis as “trashy” dressers who have a poor sense of style.
Timaru resident Lesley Walker has been judging the Junior Miss Cutie and Miss Cutie contests at the Caroline Bay Carnival, where children line up to be judged on appearance, attitude and confidence, for the past four years.
“New Zealanders as a whole we dress quite trashy, we don’t dress up any more,” Walker said.
The 74-year-old said the poor sense of style is one of the reasons she still supports annual pageants and believed the fashion sense of Kiwis had deteriorated since she was young.
Despite having no background in fashion, Walker has plenty of experience in judging, having been a regular dog show judge for many years.
Some of Walker’s sentiments have been echoed by fashion heavyweight and WORLD co-founder Denise L’Estrange-Corbet, who said New Zealanders needed to “ramp it up”.
“New Zealand women I have seen who attend black tie events tend to not dress up as much as the event requires. I understand we are a ‘casual’ nation in our dress, but I have been appalled at what women, and men, wear to weddings and events.
“We need to ramp it up, the Aussies and Europeans beat us hands down, and it’s not as if we don’t have great designs here, but people always seem so afraid of dressing up – whereas I am always afraid of being under-dressed.”
However, fashion blogger and editor of NZGirl Belinda Nash disputed the notion that New Zealand women were “trashy”.
“Kiwi women have mastered refined elegance that’s both bold and original, exemplified by some of our most stylish girls such as Lorde, Georgia Nott and Hollie Smith.
Our designers, including Miss Crabb, Coop, RUBY and Liam, Jarrad Godman, Juliette Hogan, twenty-seven names and Adrian Hailwood, to name just a few, design for chic, feminine silhouettes that flatter the female body, she said. To call its wearers ‘trashy’ is a bit petty and entirely missing the point of our unique Kiwi aesthetic.”
But Walker said she believed people did not want to “tidy themselves up” because they were lazy.
“My father would never let us wear jeans, so I have never worn them in his honour. He said women in jeans looked ‘trashy’.”
Recalling a time when everyone got themselves dressed up for all occasions, whether it be to attend church or Christmas Day celebrations, the great-grandmother said it was rare to see people well turned out these days.
She had noticed the change from well presented to casual in the past 15 to 20 years.
“No-one dresses their babies up and pushes them down Stafford St in a pram any more.”
Walker said she liked seeing pageant entrants dressed up, as it wasn’t something she often got to see.
But while L’Estrange-Corbet agreed with Walker about the style of Kiwi women, she was not a fan of children’s pageants.
“I feel the make up particularly sexualises children, and sometimes the outfits worn are just not appropriate.
“Children should be children and not have to be travelling around the country, entering these events, which are tacky, training, having new, more elaborate outfits made, to only not win and have the disappointment to contend with.
“They always seem to be more about the mother wanting the child to win, more than the actual child.”
Walker’s fellow Caroline Bay Carnival judge and beauty therapist Hope Dragalev, who has travelled the world, thought the “Kiwi style” was what made New Zealand “unique”.
“I guess we (Kiwis) could do with embracing more confidence and sassiness, to up our game a bit.”
She said it was harder for women in New Zealand to access the variety of styles available in Europe.
A tourist visiting Timaru from the United Kingdom, Dylan Read, thought casual was good.
“You’re all beach dwellers, if you wear nice clothes you’ll get sand in them and ruin them.”
He said European women spent hours looking they way they did, “stylish and chic”, but he did not like that look.