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Object: Evening gown ensemble, Miss Universe

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Title Evening gown ensemble, Miss Universe
Production McGowan, Dawn (costume designer), 1983, Auckland
Television New Zealand (commissioner), 1983, Auckland
Medium summary Taffeta, lace and netting.
Materials silk, nylon, Lurex, polyester
Classification evening dresses
Credit line Gift of Lorraine Downes, 2012
Registration number GH017544

This evening gown was worn by Lorraine Downes in 1983 when she was crowned Miss Universe in St. Louis, Missouri. To date, Lorraine Downes is the only New Zealander to have won the Miss Universe crown.

The dress was designed especially for Lorraine Downes by Dawn McGowan who worked for Television New Zealand's wardrobe department. As Television New Zealand held the broadcasting rights for the Miss Universe pagent, the company was keen to offer assistance to the young beauty queen. McGowan designed both Lorraine's national costume and evening gown.

Aware that Lorraine not only had to look sensational, but also be able to walk with ease, McGowan combined Lorraine's desire for something figure-hugging, with a full skirt that fell from the hips rather than the waist, commenting:

'I felt that a full skirt would be more in the spirit of St Louis - flamboyant... But most skirts fall from the waist and don't do much fora girl's figure, or show off her walk'. New Zealand Woman's Weekly, October 10, 1983.

Feeling 'like a princess' in the dress, Lorraine Downes scored 9.358 in the pageant's Evening Gown competition. Images of her in the gown and Miss Universe sash were beamed to a television audience of reportedly over 600 million.

Lorraine Downes wore the iconic gown again to a Parliamentary cocktail function hosted by New Zealand's Prime Minister, Mr Robert Muldoon. During the function, Lorraine was appointed an honorary travel ambassador for New Zealand for ‘the magnificent public relations job she has done for this country’. On her arrival at Parliament, two marching teams formed a guard of honour as she was ‘escorted, Princess-style' to the top of the Beehive where she was greeted by 200 MPs and dignitaries.

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