Wedding dress worn by Lena Campbell, nee Nicholls

Contributed by: Port Macquarie Historical Society

Lena & Joe Campbell, 1909 Lena Campbell's wedding dress Wedding Dress, bodice, front view Wedding Dress, bodice, back view Wedding Dress, skirt, front view Small holes and repairs to the skirt, September 2009 Repairs to the skirt waist, September 2009 Hemline fraying and repairs to lower skirt, September 2009 Darning detail on skirt, September 2009 Maude Keena (nee Cleaver) made this wedding dress Port Macquarie News 13 February 1909 Port Macquarie News 12 February 1959
  • Australian dress register ID:

    30
  • Owner:

    Port Macquarie Historical Society
  • Owner registration number:

    PMHM 2715
  • Date range:

    1908 - 1909
  • Place of origin:

    Hamilton, Port Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia
  • Gender:

    Female
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Object information

Significance statement

This is a historically and socially significant and highly valued garment within the Port Macquarie Historical Society's extensive costume collection. It was made by a local woman Maude Keena (nee Cleaver) and worn by Lena (Selina) Nicholls [1889-1973] at her marriage to Joe Campbell [1874-1959] on 10 February 1909, Lena's 20th birthday at the Nicholls family home, 'Carlton', Hamilton (later known as Hibbard), Port Macquarie.

The maker of the dress and the costs of the fabric used were recorded by the owner/donor and this information adds to the significance of the dress. The silk voile cost 2/6 per yard, trimming on the bodice cost 1/6 per yard, material over shoulder 1/2 per yard and Mrs Keena charged 1 pound to make the garment.

A wedding photograph of the couple held in the Port Macquarie Historical Society collection also records the dress. The dress was worn again at Lena and Joe Campbell's golden wedding anniversary in 1959 where it was modelled for friends and family evidencing its importance to the couple.

The dress is very beautiful. It has a number of fine details and was made using both machine and hand stitching. It is an excellent example of a local woman's sewing and embroidery skills and evidences the high quality of those skills. The dress is also beautifully designed and fashioned and is a good example of Edwardian elegance with its blouse front, elaborate decorations including pin tucks, lace, braid and embroidery and puffed sleeves. Other features of this period include the high neck and the gored and gathered skirt with decorative border. Unfortunately, the silk fabric used is contributing to the fragility of the costume. The design is representative of Australian women's fashion of the period and a rare locally provenanced costume within the collection from the early 20th century.

Lena Campbell was a well known Port Macquarie woman who worked tirelessly for a number of local community groups including the Red Cross, the Women's Agricultural Security Production Service (WASPS) and the Presbyterian Church. Later in life she was a foundation member of the Port Macquarie Croquet Club.

This wedding dress is an important object to interpret and reference marriage and rights of passage themes, women's crafts and sewing skills, women's fashion of the early 20th century and textiles- their uses and storage.

Author: Debbie Sommers, 16th June 2008.

Description

Edwardian two piece wedding dress made of cream silk radiata voile with a high necked blouse front bodice and a gored and gathered skirt forming a small train. It is trimmed with silk braid on the front bodice and cuffs and finished overall with hundreds of hand embroidered 'love' knots. The bodice has a tucked, braided and lace decorative 'v' panel extending from shoulders to waistline across the chest. The bodice fastens with 12 buttons at back and 3 hooks and loops at neckline. The sleeves are puffed and shaped with gathers under the arms falling softly towards the cuff.

The skirt has a front side opening and fastens with several hooks and loops at front left side. There is a small gathering at the back of the waistband to allow for a small bustle.

The dress was worn by Lena (Selina) Nicholls [1889-1973] at her marriage to Joe Campbell [1874-1959] on 10 February 1909, Lena's 20th birthday at the Nicholls family home, 'Carlton', Hamilton (later known as Hibbard), Port Macquarie.

History and Provenance

Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information

Lena T Campbell (nee Nicholls) b. 10 February 1889, d. 23 March 1973

Buried at Port Macquarie Cemetery

Daughter of William W and Catherine L Nicholls (nee Paddle)

Married Joseph E Campbell on 10 February 1909

Children: Keith E b. 1910, Gladys M b. 1912 and Iris J b. 1913

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

This wedding dress is mentioned in a Port Macquarie News article on Thursday 12 February 1959, reporting on the Campbell's golden wedding anniversary, "...Mrs R Nicholls modelled the wedding gown and it was made by another guest at Tuesday's party, Mrs Alf Keena..."

The wedding dress also appears to have been worn in a Port Macquarie Historical Society fashion parade in 1968, probably as part of Port Macquarie's 150th anniversary celebrations. A copy of a hand written note found amongst textile collection records states "...I think Mrs Campbell who owns and first wore this gown is in the audience tonight..."

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

Historic significance as a locally provenanced wedding dress worn at the marriage of Lena Nicholls to Joe Campbell at Hamilton, later known as Hibbard, Port Macquarie in 1909. It is a fine example of Australian Edwardian women's costume and was made locally exhibiting the skills of its maker.

This garment has been exhibited

The Wedding Dress featured in "For Better or Worse" - Women and Weddings of the Hastings, a temporary exhibition held at the Port Macquarie Historical Museum from August to December 2005. The exhibition was one of a number of exhibitions developed as part of the 'Her Story' thematic study project in the Port Macquarie Hastings area. The dress also features in the thematic study catalogue - 'Her Story - A collection of women's stories, places and objects in the Hastings', published by Port Macquarie Hastings Council, 2008.

  1. Place of origin:

    Hamilton, Port Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia

  2. Cost:

    Silk voile 2/6 per yard, trimming on bodice 1/6 per yard, material over shoulder 1/2 per yard, one pound labour, details provided by owner at time of donation.

  3. Owned by:

    Lena Campbell (nee Nicholls) 1909-1973 and donated by her to the Port Macquarie Historical Society Inc. in 1973.

  4. Worn by:

    Lena Campbell 1909, Mrs R Nicholls 1959

    Unknown

  5. Occasion(s):

    Wedding of Lena Campbell, golden wedding anniversary and later worn at a museum fashion parade

  6. Place:

    Hamilton (later known as Hibbard), Port Macquarie

  7. Designed by:

    Unknown

  8. Made by:

    Mrs Alf (Maude) Keena (nee Cleaver) in 1909

  9. Made for:

    Lena Campbell (nee Nicholls)

Trimmings / Decoration

There are also 3 rows of decorative machine stitching around hem line

Braiding

3 rows at wrists embroidered together and a braided decorative 'v' on front chest

Lace

decorative 'v' panel at front chest and on collar

Tucking

on sleeves and 'v' front chest panel

Embroidery

love knots on bodice, sleeves, collar and skirt at hem

Fibre / Weave

Cream silk radiata voile bodice and skirt, bodice only is lined with a cream polished cotton. Skirt has a cream polished cotton facing around decorative hemline border.

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye

Manufacture

The bodice is both hand and machine sewn.

The skirt is machine sewn.

Alterations

A flap cotton fabric 270mm x 180mm has been hand stitched at the left back of bodice from waist to neck, purpose unknown.

  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

The bodice has 6 whalebone inserts in the front and back from waist to bust line.

Buckram stiffening is inserted at the skirt hemline.

Measurements

bodice dress skirt
Girth
Neck 390 mm
Chest 930 mm
Waist 710 mm 725 mm
Hem circumference 3760 mm
Vertical
Front neck to hem 400 mm
Front waist to hem 970 mm
Back neck to hem 440 mm
Back waist to hem 1270 mm
Horizontal
Neck to sleeve head 115 mm
Cross back 370 mm
Underarm to underarm 430 mm
Convert to inches

60mm collar height

Dress Themes

This wedding dress is a good example of Edwardian elegance with its blouse front, elaborate decorations including pin tucks, lace, braid and embroidery and puffed sleeves. Other features of this period include the high neck and the gored and gathered skirt with decorative border.

Additional material

Other related objects

There are several other items of clothing donated by Lena Campbell. The Nicholls family christening gown, 1864 made in England and used for the christenings of 3 generations of the Nicholls family including Lena is also in the collection.

Condition

Original buttons missing, only one remains

Old tear to the skirt has been repaired

Original underskirt does not exist

Evidence of repairs

There are several small darned areas on skirt,. The waistband has been reinforced and restitched and the skirt reinforced in several areas with netting. A tear on the skirt front has been repaired and backed with lining fabric similar to the original lining. There is extensive fraying on the skirt hemline. The original underskirt is missing.

Only one of the original buttons on the bodice remains, others are replacements.

State

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

Damage

  1. Discolouration
  2. Frayed
  3. Holes
  4. Parts missing
  5. Stained
  6. Torn
  7. Worn

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