Frequently asked questions

Dress front (detail), Brussels Duchesse lace. Powerhouse Museum collection, gift of Orwell Phillips, 1960. H6670-1

Dress front (detail), Brussels Duchesse lace. Powerhouse Museum collection, gift of Orwell Phillips, 1960. H6670-1

Dress (detail), aesthetic style, silk, worn by Louisa Burrows, maker unknown, Australia, 1880-1900. Powerhouse Museum collection, gift of Ms Barbara Shorter, 1984. A10682

Dress (detail), aesthetic style, silk, worn by Louisa Burrows, maker unknown, Australia, 1880-1900. Powerhouse Museum collection, gift of Ms Barbara Shorter, 1984. A10682

Court robe (detail), informal, silk, unknown maker, China, about 1900. Powerhouse Museum collection, gift of Mr and Mrs Joseph Mikulicic-Rodd, 1971. A5920

Court robe (detail), informal, silk, unknown maker, China, about 1900. Powerhouse Museum collection, gift of Mr and Mrs Joseph Mikulicic-Rodd, 1971. A5920

What is meant by Australian dress?

'Dress' is used as a generic term for all garments with their accessories, whether formal or informal, for men, women or children. It includes performance costume, occupational dress and uniforms. Australian dress refers to garments made or worn in Australia or which have an Australian provenance.

What is included on the register?

The Australian Dress Register (ADR) documents significant and well provenanced men's, women's and children's dress from across Australia. An entry can include the accessories associated with the garment, for example, shoes, bag, hat, shawls, coat, underwear that were worn as the entire outfit.

What are the benefits of being on the register or using the register?

The ADR allows people around the world to view wonderful Australian provenanced dress collections. The garments are currently located in museums large and small, along with private collections. The register supports the garments remaining in their locations, while providing access on the website. Once you have entered the dress it will be available for all to share, compare and discuss online. By sharing this information with the wider community, people from all over the world can learn about dress history.

An important outcome is to provide information for non-commercial educational purposes to as broad an audience as possible. The potential audience includes students and teachers from a variety of disciplines, museums and local communities, family and regional historians, theatre/film industry, designers, clothing and textile manufacturers, shoemakers, costumiers, milliners, embroiderers, lace makers, artists and academics.

Benefits for the organisations who participate include: discovery and recognition of the significance of their collections; training and skills development in the care and documentation of dress and museum best practice; as well as providing corroborating support for grant and funding applications.

How do I know if my garment is significant enough to go on the register?

Significance refers to the historic, aesthetic, technical and social values associated with an item of dress and its place in a community. A well provenanced garment in poor condition may be more appropriate than a very beautiful one without accompanying information. As the dress is not going on display, the condition is not as important, so this may affect your choice. There is a broad range of garments on the register including normal daily life and occupations. The ADR team reviews entries before they go online and may request additional information before uploading the registration.

How many garments can I register?

There is no limit to the number of entries that can be provided by an organisation or private individual but it is recommended that only one entry is in undertaken at a time and that only those garments which are the most significant in your collection are considered for entry on the Register.

Can I put a hat or a pair of shoes on the register?

The primary focus is dress but accessories that tell a good story can also be included.

I have a wedding dress which belonged to my grandmother. Can I put it on the register?

Wedding dresses will be included as long as they are accompanied by good documentation and images.

Will I have to show people the actual dress?

The register is an online database that can be shared with people from all over the world. It is not about physical access to the objects. The ownership and/or location of the dress entries can be withheld for security reasons if you wish.

How can I be involved? How can my organisation be involved?

Individuals, private collectors and organisations are encouraged to enter their significant garments to share with a worldwide audience.

Who manages the register?

The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS) initiated the project and hosts the website. Decisions regarding the development are managed by a committee with representation from across the sector and include those who contribute and use the site. The day-to-day operation of the site is coordinated by staff from the curatorial, conservation and registration departments at MAAS. Support with the entry of data is provided by MAAS. If you wish to access this support contact us at dressregister@phm.gov.au.

How can students be involved in the project?

Students can be very useful as volunteers in regional museums and galleries to assist with documentation. Research into makers, family and community history can be most helpful when deciding which objects to choose. The wealth of information available on the register is a useful resource for teachers across the curriculum areas.

How can I access training for the documentation for the register?

The register includes links and modules to assist with, not only completing entries for the register, but the whole spectrum of assessing, handling, photographing, storing and displaying dress in small collections.

Do I need to photograph the dress?

Yes. Good clear photographs of the garments are essential for the online database. There are information sheets and videos that demonstrate how to prepare a dress for display on a mannequin and how to photograph it in a studio or in situ in a museum where space might be tight. If a dress is too fragile to place on a mannequin, there is information on how to photograph it on a sloped backboard. Associated material can also be included in the entry for a dress, such as historic photographs (eg wedding photographs), or scans of the purchase receipt, wedding certificate, or press reports. Garments should not be dressed on a person for photography as this may cause damage.

Can I include an audio recording of an interview providing information on the history of the dress?

Yes. Audio recordings will be able to be uploaded online in the near future.

Can I register a garment if I have a computer but don't have internet access?

Yes, we can send you a CD with the blank Australian Dress Register form (Word doc) and help notes. You can post it back to us, along with your photos (scans or copies, no originals please). The form and help notes are also available on the resources page on the website.

Can I register a garment if I don't have a computer?

Yes, we can send you a blank Australian Dress Register form and the help notes. When you have completed the form you can send it to us with your photos (scans or copies, no originals please) and we can enter the information onto the register for you. The form and help notes are also available on the resources page on the website.

How do I contact the register?

Email: dressregister@phm.gov.au
Phone: (02) 9217 0192 Curatorial Admininistration Officer
Post: Australian Dress Register, c/- Powerhouse Museum, PO Box K346, Haymarket NSW 1238.