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WHEN MODELS WERE
FETED LIKE FILM STARS
Along with the emer- gence ot the superstar mannequin came the "charm' school The
girls, at right, were one of the early graduation
classes to receive their
diplomas from June Dally Watkins' school, which opened in 1950.
June Dally Watkins today.
June Dally Watkins looks back on the fabulous 'fifties, when a mannequin was considered the
nearest thing to a goddess
"THE fabulous "50s,"
sighed June Dall\ Watkins, ri il i n ii through thc jumble of laded pietures in the old suit- cases. "They really were
fantastic years.'* she
added, picking out vet another print showing ihe style of the era when she was a top Sydne)
Glamorous laces gazed np fruin the floor where looked-at pictures had been
discarded Ihe hats, thc
hairstyles, the unadorned
luminous e\es. thc dark lipsticks u all belonged lu the "look" of two decades
"Those beautiful evening .owns! Weren't they lavishly
decorated, so feminine, so
glamorous? rhose years were
wonderful ones for fashion.
"Models were Healed like
film stars. Everyone knew
.ur names, we were feled.
Young girls copied our make-up. our hairstyles,
clothes, read about and
cm lcd our glamorous lives. Ml thal has changed I oday ii is matter-of-fact and solely
"The '50s models looked like models wherever they
went. Not im them thc casual leans, shin, and no make-up
" Knd wc didn't have such
.1 fantastic range nf cosmetics, wi^s hair-pieces, eyelashes. Wc had lo be
ingenious. If \ou weren't a natural beauly you had little lo help \ou.
"Today's models are very good. You won't recognise
them as models when the\
aren't working, but when ihes do a job lhe\ can create an) image needed. The\ are really cleverer than their prototypes of 20 years ago
And lo them it is a
profession, not a wa\ of life.
"Today a lop model in S\dne\ can earn up to $500 a
week. In 1952 a model was
paid a guinea (S2. IQ) a shot
They were luck\ to earn eight pounds ($16) a week, and the\ had to provide mos!
ot' their ow ii clothes, and of course their cosmetics.
"I remember one girl
complaining because she liad to buv a four pound seven-and-six (SS.75) pair of
flat-heeled shoes for a
particular picture. Vnd she onl) gol a su i nea for the joh!"
(Realising that the cost ol li\my and looking glamorous didn't go together. Sydnev
models in 1952 handed
together forming ihe Man- nequin and l'holographie
Models' \ssociation of \SV\ rhe\ asked lor lu o
guineas for a single shot, or a guinea and a hall for ihe fi rsl shol and a guinea for
I he reminiscing, w Inch look place in ihe office from
which Juin- controls her
model agenes .md school of deportment, came about because it is 25 years since
site started her classes in a
dusts, old reined photograph-
She opened her "charm" school (as she (hen termed it) with trepidation, expecting it
to be short-lived. But the small class of six she started
out with soon grew, until today she looks back on some 50.000 graduates.
Slim, long-legged, metic- ulously groomed June Oakly
Watkins is now in her middle 40s, and still has the
The New Look was shin length
model's symmetry ol lace, line skin, and (.'lear eyes.
Her yen for modelling hogan when she was growing np in the NSW country town of Watsons Cieek. iiisi out
nf I .miworth
I he eit\ store catalogues were regularly dropped in her parents' mailbox, and she
would read them a\ idl\
"I used iii go through the pages looking al the beauti- ful girls w ho smiled out from them, promising myself that one da) I'd join them.
"When I finished school,
mother and I came to
Sydney. I headed straight for a large department store and
announced thai I wanted to
model. Slramjclv cnoua
they gave me .1 |.>h lhere anti then posing lor theil] catalogue I u.i- paid thc large sum ol ill a guinea
and felt ver\ rich.
"lt was an encouraging >tart. I did the mund* of the lng stores, finally landing
mannequin ¡ob I had no training. "There «.i> nunc in 1944. I was terrible »hen I started, bm as I kept on getting |ohs I learnt and improved and loved it
"As lhere wasn't enough model work in ihosedaysw keep sou going. 1 supplemented my earnings b\ working lor 1 whik a>. a
window dresser and J
make-up anist I didn't kncH thc least ihing about either
hui managed lo bluff I wa) through.
"Each season lhere wi
the mannequin parades - the) were called And we the) productions! B
audiences, afternoon lc binding staircases, an catwalks. And wc »ere ll superstars ¡;irN like Fai I olkes. Coralie kelk Ld Stevens, .lune Mallei. Pa
June modelled Chrisiuu Dior's controversial Ne« Look when II U.IN paraded" S\dne\ in Il>4s thc lïrsl lin« thc designer had Jl0»1 outside Paris She al*' modelled loi Balmain, who sen i a collcclion c'f ckw
I June Dally Watkins showing a white chiffon Carven gown at the ? opening ot The Australian Women's Weekly-sponsored 1947 season fl of famous -rench fashions, held at Sydney's Princes restaurant
Above: A fashion shot of the 1950s with June Dally Watkins, centre. Lois Stevens, top left. June Mallet, top right, and Pam Clemson, bottom right.
Left: Jeanette Elphick, later to become film star Victoria Shaw, being made up by June Dally Watkins for her first photographic assignment at 15.
t>\ both Paris and Sydne\ models.
Die New Look was
thin length had nipped-in
a I whirlaway, stiffened skirts.
"lt took ne four years to
e ¡ablished. The
pinnacle was when I won a
iper Model of the Year award' and started to mate mone* . which wasn't
days. But I trea d my work as a career rather than a
ilamorous ij of life."
The next step in that
came in 1950 when
mother urged her to the charm" school, tr hools were
liing m Europe and 1 had brochures printed
! would accept led' students - what u
for eight weeks' -ti m deportment, pooming. make-up. manne
I the telephone numbei
' ross flat
Then I hired t
biographic studio for nigh
si) students of the »eek MC« to 12 in the
second. And from this class
came Pat Woodley. Maureen
Duval, and Fran Wilkins -
all to become big names in
the model world, with Pat
going on to win the Miss
"In all, 1 have trained seven Miss Australias.
"I kept on modelling during the day because I was sure the school wasn't going
Before the school's
opening June spent weeks
putting together a program which she thought would help young girls gain confidence and help them
it they wanted to be models.
"I tried to work out what had made me successful. The
walking. standing. the techniques for skin and hair care, how to dress. I learnt the hard way by trial and error, but it helped me with mv teaching."
When she ordered 20
diplomas to be printed for her first graduation cere- mony, her mother said.
".Make it 300. they'll be cheaper."
"I was horrified, wonder-
ing what I'd do with all those leftover diplomas."
There were no leftovers. The school flourished. So much so that after six months
she opened another, in Brisbane, training staff to run it. lt is still operating.
As classes continued to
grow more space was needed in Sydney, so June moved to
an old film studio in
Castlereagh Street. She
borrowed a desk, built a
three-ply partition around it.
and installed her first
"That studio was well used. There were auction
sales in it during the day, and screenings of advertising
films. Then fd move in with
my girls. I was still working as a model, nearly killing myself. but life was stimulating, exciting."
When the idea of starting a model agency first came to her. she was told that it just
wouldn't work, that clients
liked to personally contact
"But I knew advertising
agencies were getting busier and I was turning out some good professional models.
"'Some of the first names
on my agency books were Jeanette Elphick - remem-
ber, she went to Hollywood
and changed her name to
Victoria Shaw when she became a film star? -
Michelle Safargy. Jean Newington, and Marie
"That agency was really the beginning of serious
training tor models in Sydney, and modelling itself
became a serious business.
"Clients soon got into the habit of phoning to ask if I could send the right type of model for a specific photograph. Soon we were getting up to 100 model jobs a day."
By this time June had moved again - to a "junk" room in the same building,
where she created a better office for herselfand one for her secretary.
In 1952 with the school
and agency well established,
and associate teachers
trained, June took a collection of clothes round
the world to give one-man mannequin shows. When she found she couldn't get a compere to appear with her, she'd compere herself.
"1 felt like a one-man
band, parading in a gown and then racing up to the microphone to describe it."
Orry-Kellv. the American dress designer, introduced her to the Hollywood world More pictures plucked from
"Young girls read about our glamorous lives"
thc suitcase showed her with
Spencer Tracy. Fred Astaire. Cary Grant. Deborah Kerr. Bob Hope, and Gregors Peck, "who was someone very special."
She met him again in Italy and has faded Rome newspaper clippings with pictures of her holding hands
with the handsome star as
they strolled along a street, sitting with him at a famous
"I still correspond with him and with Bob Hope."
Back in Sydney. June married John Clifford and
during the next few vears had tour children, still working dav and night. "I'd leave the hospital with a baby and go straight into the
"As a working mother. 1 was made to feel guilty and
told that mv children would
turn into delinquents. I'm glad to sav that Carel, who is 20. Timothy. 18, Marc. 14. and Lisa. 12, are the most normal and wonderful children.
"To me children need two
things: love and security. And they can miss out on these even if they have a mother who stavs home ail the time."
Today. June's interests are grouped in the one George Street building.
Her main business concern
is her training courses.
"I'm approaching my ^0s but to me life is still exciting and stimulating. Although
there are times when I feel a
little like a female Mr Chips.
"That's when girls come in to sign up for a course and
tell me their mothers - and grandmothers - did one