Cooke wedding dress

Contributed by: Alstonville Plateau Historical Society Inc

Isabella Cooke in her wedding dress, 1883 Front view wedding dress Close detail of bodice Details of bodice Skirt of garment Detail of skirt Staining on sleeves of garment Staining on upper sleeve of garment Staining and wear on elbow of garment Frayed lace decoration on skirt of garment Button missing at sleeve cuff
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Object information

Significance statement

While wedding gowns are not rare in museums, this gown has such good provenance that it is significant. There is much documentation associated with this gown and its maker, Isabella Cooke. The APHS has a very comprehensive collection of Isabella's handiwork illustrating her fine needlework, sewing, quilting, crochet, tatting and embroidery.

Four years after her marriage she travelled to the north coast, first of all settling in Bexhill, then Corndale and finally retiring with her husband to Alstonville. Her husband, Samuel Robert Cooke, was a successful dairy farmer, who went into business as a Stock and Station Agent with the principal auctioneering firms in Lismore.

This gown can be seen as a window into middle class rural life in Australia in the late Victorian era, because, in the attention to detail that Isabella displayed in making this dress, she reveals the hopes and aspirations attached to marriage for women of that era. Much could be written about the pioneering women whose introduction to rural life per horse and dray was anything but easy. Butchering, butter-making, candle-making, laundering and sewing were all part of the day's work. Her daughter Jessie recalled that a good knowledge of nursing the sick saw Isabella at many relatives and neighbours bedsides. In this context, such a beautiful dress must have been the focus of many of Isabella's happiest and most personal hopes.

The dress is also significant because it is extremely well made and of a very pleasing style and design. It also presents a rich potential for research, with many fabrics used, as well as threads, buttons, whale bones and sewing techniques. Isabella Cooke was an extremely gifted needlewoman and this gown is very elaborate and shows the success of the design and manufacture by a 23 year old woman. Her competence in needlework was noted throughout her life.

Author: Ina le Bas: grandaughter of Isabella Cooke (abridged by Margot Stuart-Smith), 16th November 2007.

Description

The wedding gown consists of a skirt with a bustle and a long sleeved fitted jacket in gold satin.

The jacket has a shaped bodice with darts extending to the edge of the bodice. It has a pocket edged with piping on the right hand side.It features a shirred V front with 34 fancy metal buttons outlining the V. Seventeen buttons have been sewn on the right-hand side with an opening to allow the bodice to be put on. The closure is by metal hooks and the eyelets have been hand sewn by using an awl to pierce the material then the eyelets have been blanket stitched to stop fraying. The buttons on the opposite side have shanks and metal pins to secure the closing. The jacket is made to fit an 18 in. (460mm.) waist. Piping, made on the cross, embellishes the joins between the sleeves and the shoulder of the jacket and the long sleeves have turned backs ornamented with two of the same buttons. The back of the jacket has 16 buttonholes hand stitched. The shaping is supported by whalebone. There is evidence of a 90mm. wide band of lace that was at the neck, armholes and wrists of the jacket.

The skirt is constructed from a series of shirred and pleated horizontal panels, the knife-edge pleating taking up the gathers from the shirring. Each shirred or pleated panel is 90mm. in depth. The bustle is supported by thicker cotton lining and has been edged with the same lace as was used on the jacket (Now removed)

History and Provenance

Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information

Wedding Certificate and wedding photographs available at APHS

Do you have any stories or community information associated with this?

Four years after her marriage, Isabella travelled to the North Coast first of all settling in Bexhill, then Corndale and finally retiring with her husband to Alstonville. Her husband, Samuel Robert Cooke was a successful dairy farmer whose interests were the agricultural show of the district. He was a Director of Byron Bay Butter Factory (Norco). Having gained so much knowledge from the land and its products he went into business as a Stock and Station Agent with the leading auctioneering firm in Lismore.

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

There is much documentation associated with this gown and its maker, Isabella Cooke. The APHS has a very comprehensive collection of Isabella Cooke's handiwork illustrating her fine needlework, sewing, quilting, crochet, tatting and embroidery. Isabella supported the local agricultural shows by entering her handicrafts, sewing and horticulture for she was a keen and excellent gardener.

Where did this information come from?

Originally donated to Cavalcade by the family of Isabella Cooke, the dress was returned to the Alstonville area by a member of Cavalcade in 2006.

Her granddaughter Ina le Bas.

  1. Place of origin:

    Jamberoo, New South Wales, Australia

  2. Owned by:

    Isabella Cooke nee King

  3. Worn by:

    Isabella King/Cooke

  4. Occasion(s):

    Her wedding to Samuel Robert Cooke

  5. Place:

    "Curramore" nr. Jamberoo

  6. Designed by:

    Isabella King

  7. Made by:

    Isabella King

  8. Made for:

    Her wedding to Samuel Robert Cooke

Trimmings / Decoration

Pleats, gathering and shirring on the skirt, shirring on the jacket

Piping

Hand made cut on the cross

Lace

Now removed

Tucking

Yes

Fibre / Weave

Gold heavy satin

Lining: glazed cotton with heavier cotton supporting the bustle.

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye

Manufacture

Button holes and eyelets hand sewn

Alterations

Lace on neckline, wristline, and outlining bustle has been removed

  1. Hand sewn
  2. Machine sewn
  3. Knitted
  4. Other

Cut

  1. Bias
  2. Straight

Fastenings

  1. Hook and eye
  2. Lacing
  3. Buttons
  4. Zip
  5. Drawstring

Stiffening / Lining / Padding

Whaleboning covered with cotton lining material in bodice.

Stiff cotton lining supporting bustle

Measurements

jacket skirt
Girth
Waist 460 mm
Hip 620 mm
Vertical
Front neck to hem 360 mm
Front waist to hem 1040 mm
Sleeve length 460 mm
Convert to inches

Additional material

Articles, publications, diagrams and receipts descriptions

Quilts made by Isabella Cooke are in the National Quilt Collection

Other related objects

APHS has a 'Log cabin' patchwork pot holder made from the wedding gown material.

Condition

Isabella (King) Cooke designed and made her own elaborate wedding gown. She was noted for her desire to make something from nothing so that nothing was wasted, not from frugality but from thriftiness.

State

  1. Excellent
  2. Good
  3. Fair
  4. Poor

Damage

  1. Frayed
  2. Parts missing
  3. Stained

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