Noeline Brown shares her ’60s fashion faux pas

Remember when there were strict rules when it came to fashion?

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Noeline Brown sure does. For her was the 1960’s. Speaking to Starts at 60, the Australian actress and comedian recalled so many social fashion requirements of those times, such as how a good friend would carry a spare pare of white gloves in her handbag while on the train, in case the ones she was wearing got dirty before she arrived at her destination.

“At the beginning of the 60s it was almost a criminal offence to go out without shoes and bag matching. It seems extraordinary now,” Noeline Brown recalls. It was a time of structured underwear too. “It would take a very long time to get undressed,” she laughed.

It was also a time when wearing pants could be a fashion faux pas, if you were a female, while attending certain establishments. The 78-year-old recalls a night out wearing a funky outfit consisting of a long turquoise blouse with a black top underneath, and narrow pants. She got stopped trying to enter a nightclub. “I was told I wasn’t allowed to go in because I was wearing slacks.”

The 1960s was a very important era in the life of Brown for many reasons. For one thing, it was when she made the decision to leave a ‘regular job’ and try her luck as a professional actor. “I was lucky enough to get some really good stage and television work.” Brown is known for roles in The Mavis Bramston Show, My Name’s McGooley, What’s Yours?, not to mention The Naked Vicar Show and Blankety Blanks with Graham Kennedy.

A former librarian before her fame, Brown has now written a book titled ‘Living the 1960s’, which features her own colourful recollections, as well as a large collection of images from the era that will transport you right back in time.  “It was a great time of change. That’s what I wanted to write about.”  The book covers a range of topics from music, politics, arts, fashion, family life, sport and the role of women, who were making waves in a mans world.

“I was a feminist in the 60s because I could see things that needed changing.” While some regard feminism as a dirty word Brown says women today wouldn’t be where we are now without them.

Living the 1960s
Living the 1960s was written by Noeline Brown. (NLA Publishing, out 1 October)

Noeline admits she didn’t always appreciate the things that happened in those years. Part of it was the things that came with fame, and the lack of anonymity. “I remember buying a wig, wearing it in the street and thinking I was in disguise, when a woman called out ‘Love your wig, Noeline,” she laughed.

She recalled a time when there’d also be helicopters flying over her apartment block, hoping to get sight of her and Barry Creyton together. While they were known as a double act, worked together and lived in the same building (although on different floors) no-one believed they weren’t an item in their private life as well.

People now come up to Brown and thank her for all the years of fun she brought to their house. She wishes now she had accepted more gracefully the role she played in people’s lives.“I can look back on that and really be pleased. I’ve had a wonderful career of over 50 years. It’s lovely to be acknowledged for it.”

While the 60s had a big impact on her life, Brown admits so did turning 60 herself.  “A lot has happened to me at 60. There’s been a huge number of opportunities.  It was a great turning point for me.”

From putting her hand up for politics, to a stint on Dancing with the Stars, not to mention starring roles in plays, Brown says she’s got a lot to be grateful for since turning 60. “People get depressed at milestones. I think you go ‘wow, a lot of stuff is still going to happen’. Retirement is an opportunity to do something you’ve always wanted to do.”

What was your most memorable moment from the 1960s?