Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Presidential Savoir Faire!

Considering that Australia was considered somewhat of a backwater in the late 1960’s early 1970’s the country certainly had its fair share of controversy in the fashion world at the time. First we had Jean Shrimpton at the Melbourne Cup wearing a dress deemed insulting to the establishment, and then we had Sonia McMahon wife of then Prime Minister William McMahon wearing “that dress” at a White House dinner hosted by Richard Nixon.

Sonia McMahon was the stylish much younger wife of William McMahon, prime Minister of Australia from 1971 -1972 and also mother of the actor Julian McMahon. Being much younger than her husband she was sure to raise a few eyebrows wherever she went. However eyebrows nearly flew off people’s faces when she attended a dinner at the White House hosted by then President Richard Nixon in honour of her husband in 1971.

The daring dress created by Melbourne designer Victoria Cascajo, was made from synthetic crepe, and had thigh high slits down both sides and with see through slits down the sides of the bodice and sleeves, held precariously together by bands of rhinestones about 2 cms apart. The dress created headlines around the world.

Mrs. McMahon never expected the dress to be so controversial and selected it to wear purely because it was “different”.

She said: “You had to wear so many long frocks to dinners all the time in those days, just one after the other, in all sorts of countries. And I was just sick of the normal frilly, frothy things”.

The Washington Post said the dress was one of the most talked about costumes to be worn to the White House. The fashion editor of paper at the time described it as "absolutely smashing. I think the dress is a breakthrough for fashion and a blow for women's liberation."

*Above Powerhouse Museum Sydney
Again like Jean Shrimpton the dress seems incredibly conservative by today’s standards however it pushed the boundaries on what was considered “decent” at the time! Both women dressed for comfort and ease. Unfortunately dressing for comfort and ease these days, entails all sorts of fashion travesties, which I am afraid just don’t cut it. Jean and Sonia appear elegant and polished, compared to today’s unkempt looks and the profusion of black tights which get teemed with everything. You can still show some skin and have lots of savoir faire!


  1. that her today? She looks great.
    Her son is, of course, another kind of wow himself.

  2. Jason, yep that is her wearing the dress a couple of years ago. Unfortunately she died eaelier this year.

    And yes- Julian is wow!

  3. I love it! I love that name. It always seems to belong to a good-looking man!


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