Skirt worn by Catherine Thomson

Contributed by: Stanton Library

Black satin evening skirt
  • Australian dress register ID:

    304
  • Owner:

    Stanton Library
  • Owner registration number:

    269
  • Date range:

    1890 - 1900
  • Place of origin:

    Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  • Gender:

    Female
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Object information

Significance statement

A provenanced item in the Costume and Object collection held by Stanton Library in North Sydney. Skirts such as this made from expensive fabrics and with trains were often worn on formal occasions by 'well-to-do' ladies in the Edwardian era. It was made for Catherine Thomson to wear at the opening of the first Australian Parliament at the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne on 9 May 1901. Opened by The Prince George, Duke of Cornwall and York (later George V), Catherine was among 12,000 guests at the ceremony. We can presume that Catherine was invited to the ceremony as she was the sister-in-law of the Rt Hon Dugald Thomson who was elected as the first Federal member of Parliament for North Sydney.

A painting of the ceremony by the famous Australian artist Tom Roberts, show ladies wearing black long sleeved blouses and skirts and elaborately designed hats. The Duchess of Cornwall (who was later to become Queen Mary) is shown wearing a black skirt.

Author: Susan Shaw, 29 July 2011.

Description

Full length black satin evening skirt with train

On front of skirt are black sequins and seed bead trim of reversing pattern of leaves and curliques

(Sequins and beading sewing on as a panel)

Beading also extends behind the front of lower skirt to hem

Below the beading are 2 hems. Frill attached on inside. 2nd hem is 110 mm deep behind first hem and is trimmed with velvet ribbon on inside.

Hem on train has velvet ribbon on inside of outer fabric with a frill attached above it.

Area above hem under beading has interfacing. Probably no interfacing on train.

Has 2 front side seams

2 back side seams

Beading extends to back side seams

The waist at the back has gathers and seam goes down on each side to form edge of train.

Train let in as godet.

Length of train insert 980 mm

Width at hem of train insert 620 mm

Extra fullness allowed below beading

Hem is hand sewn

Seams machine sewn

In seam deep pocket on right side

Centre back opening

Waistband of herringbone tape 3 1/2 cm Fastening with hook and eyes

Link to further information about this object

History and Provenance

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

This skirt belonged to Catherine Thomson (nee Gillies) who was the sister-in-law of the Rt Hon. Dugald Thomson. Dugald Thomson (1849-1922), an important figure in the history of North Sydney, was its first Federal Member of Parliament.

Dugald was influential in developing transport otions to the North side of Sydney Harbour. In the late 1870s, with J P Garvan, he had established the co-operative North Shore Steam Ferry Co Ltd. Ferries were an essential mode of transport to the North side of the Harbour in the many decades before the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. He was involved with the Railway Extension League and the extension of the railway to Milsons Point.

He lived at 'Wyreepi' in Kirribilli Point from 1904-1922 and never married. He was buried in the Presbyterian section of Gore Hill Cemetery.

References:

* North Sydney, 1788-1988 by Michael Jones, Allen & Unwin 1988 pp 168-169

* Australian Dictionary of Biography - online edition http://adbonline.anu.edu.au/biogs/A120235b.htm

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

This skirt belonged to Catherine Thomson (nee Gillies). She was the daughter of Judge Gillies of New Zealand.

She wore the skirt to the opening of the first Australian Parliament at the Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne on 9 May 1901. Catherine was among 12,000 guests who attended the ceremony presided over by The Prince George, Duke of Cornwall and York (later George V) Catherine was presumably invited to the ceremony as she was the sister-in-law of the Rt Hon Dugald Thomson, the first Federal Member of Parliament for North Sydney.

Dugald Thomson was a wealthy merchant and politician. He became a strong supporter of Federation and played an important role in the first Federal Parliament. He was elected to the House of Representatives for the seat of North Sydney in 1901, holding it unopposed until he retired in 1910. He was minister for home affairs in the Federal parliament from 1904-1905.

References:

* North Sydney, 1788-1988 by Michael Jones, Allen & Unwin 1988 pp 168-169

* Australian Dictionary of Biography - online edition http://adbonline.anu.edu.au/biogs/A120235b.htm

Where did this information come from?

The information came from the donor of the skirt, the granddaughter of Catherine Thomson.

(written on the donation form)

  1. Place of origin:

    Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

  2. Owned by:

    Catherine Thomson, the sister-in-law of the Right Hon.Dugald Thomson who was the first Federal Member of Parliament for North Sydney.

  3. Worn by:

    Catherine Thomson

  4. Occasion(s):

    Opening of first Federal Parliament held in the Exhibition Building, Melbourne on 9 May 1901

  5. Place:

    Exhibition Building, Melbourne, Victoria

  6. Designed by:

    Possibly Catherine Thomson but most probably a dress maker hired by Catherine Thomson

  7. Made by:

    Possibly Catherine Thomson but most probably a dress maker hired by Catherine Thomson

  8. Made for:

    Catherine Thomson

Trimmings / Decoration

Sequins and beading sewn on to front of skirt

Fibre / Weave

Black satin skirt and train

Black sequins and seed beads on front of skirt

Herringbone tape

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye

Manufacture

  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

Stiffening above front hem

Lining is all taffeta

Measurements

skirt
Girth
Waist 640 mm
Vertical
Front waist to hem 1020 mm
Back waist to hem 1390 mm
Convert to inches

Additional material

Other related objects

The following objects belonging to the Thomson family are also in the Heritage Centre costume and object collection at Stanton Library. The database can be accessed from the North Sydney Council website www.northsydney.nsw.gov.au Follow the prompts from the Library pull down menu

* Striped tapestry woven waistcoat which belonged to Dugald Thomson

*Cream and blue checked grosgrain silk and satin waistcoat also belonging to Dugald Thomson.

*A pair of baby booties worn by Jane Thomson

The following objects held by Stanton Library archive collection include:

A framed coat of arms for the Thomson and Blackburn families. At the bottom of coat of arms it reads: Dougal Thomson and Margaret Blackburn were married 25 January in the year of our Lord 1813.

A family photograph album, contains photographs of Dugald Thomson and family members and of 'Wyreepi" and Kirribilli waterfront.

On front cover are the words "Wyreepi" and its associations, Sydney 11 November 1918

The date of the signing of the Armistice in the Great War of 1914-18

Inside page an inscription which reads: To Nancy from her uncle Dugald Thomson.

"Wyreepi", Kirribilli Pt, Sydney "Some gleams of gold, some days of old"

by Dugald Thomson

Condition

Evidence of repairs

No visible evidence of repair

State

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

Damage

  1. Torn

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