Hats and gloves in Miss Showgirl competition

July 11, 2017

Judy Hipwell (nee Walker) at the Pyramid Hill show at age 16. The following year she won Miss Show Girl at the Echuca Show.

Mrs Hipwell won a total of three Miss Show Girl titles from 1960 to 1963.

As a young woman Judy Hipwell (nee Walker) spent many an hour at the local agricultural shows.

Wandering through the showgrounds, meeting friends and spending time with her mother and father who often showed their sheep, Mrs Hipwell found herself looking for ways to pass the time.

It was then no surprise that this young woman, just 17 years old at the time, took it upon herself to enter the 1960 Miss Show Girl competition at the Echuca show.

‘‘That was what teenage girls did in those days (at the show), there was nothing much else to do,’’ she said.

‘‘It was never far from your own town and you helped support the country shows.’’

Having won Miss Pyramid Hill for a second time just a week earlier, Mrs Hipwell entered with hopes of winning the Miss Show Girl title and travelling to Melbourne to compete against other young women from across the state.

‘‘Everyone wanted to get to Melbourne because the prizes were pretty substantial ... When I won the Echuca show, that got me to Melbourne for that year,’’ she said.

With women from a number of local shows travelling to Melbourne, there was always plenty of competition according to Mrs Hipwell — with four or five heats containing 10 women each.

‘‘It was rather exciting, in those days you never went to Melbourne very much ... You met all the lovely girls in their matching hats, shoes and gloves,’’ she said.

‘‘There were models and pretty classy girls (in the competition). To go down from the country and compete against a Melbourne model, you just weren’t in the same class.’’

Although not making it through to the final stage in 1960, it was a different story when Mrs Hipwell returned to Melbourne as a 19-year-old following a win at the 1962 Barmah show.

There she was lucky enough to win one of the top two places in her Melbourne heat, earning herself a place in the top 10 and the final round of judging.

It was an exciting moment for the young woman, but not one she felt a need to take too seriously.

‘‘If you won, you won. If you didn’t, get over it!’’ she said with a laugh.

Ultimately it wasn’t to be and Mrs Hipwell was unable to claim the overall crown that year, but looking back remembers the few lessons she learned through her years in the competition and the rules that set its foundation.

‘‘If you didn’t have your gloves and hat, well, forget it,’’ she said.

‘‘And you couldn’t be married, you had to be young, between 16 and 23.’’

Having competed since she was 16 years old, Mrs Hipwell entered her final Miss Show Girl competition in 1963 when at 20 years old she won the title of Miss Kerang.

Following her many years as a Show Girl competitor, Mrs Hipwell later returned to the competition in another capacity — as a judge and also as a mother.

She spent a number of years judging the competitions herself, ultimately drawing on her wealth of knowledge when it came time for her daughters Fiona and Andrea to compete, with each ultimately going on to win Miss Northern and, just like their mother, compete for the Victorian title.

Now married and living in Cohuna, Mrs Hipwell said she continued to support the local shows and remembered fondly the experience the local country shows offered her.

■The RASV is looking for former Miss Show Girls to celebrate the competition’s 60th anniversary. Contact Annette Shiell by email at or by phone on 9281 7427.

■To share your showgirl story with Country News, phone Alana Christensen on 5820 3237 or email

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