These were the days when beauty pageants were all the rage.

Young women would flock to take part, keen to show the world how elegant they looked.

Oxford was no exception and every year, the Oxford Mail and other firms in the city would step forward to sponsor the Miss Oxford event.

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The picture above was taken at the Oxford Mail offices in Osney Mead in 1977 and shows 20 of the 70 contestants who applied to take part in the competition that year.

Of those 20, the judges were to choose 12 to parade at a gala evening before an invited audience at the offices of the fellow sponsors that year, Hartwells of Oxford, at Kidlington a few weeks later.

The Oxford Mail reported: “The girls are now busy choosing evening wear and swimsuits, provided free for them by Debenhams of Oxford to wear for the final.”

A holiday in Benidorm with £100 spending money, £50 worth of cosmetics and £25 hairdressing vouchers - plus a series of public appearances during the following year - awaited the winner. The girls in second and third place were also given cash and gifts.

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Beauty pageants associated with bikinis in many parts of the country are now part of a bygone era, but many women will have fond memories of taking part in them in their youth.

Winners of regional contests could end up competing in much bigger competitions, including Miss World.

Miss World is the oldest existing international beauty pageant. It was created in the UK by Eric Morley in 1951. Since his death in 2000, Mr Morley’s widow, Julia Morley, has co-chaired the pageant.

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This story was written by Andy Ffrench, he joined the team more than 20 years ago and now covers community news across Oxfordshire.

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