Pink wool bodice and skirt

Contributed by: National Museum of Australia

All photos by George Serras, Lannon Harley, Dragi Markovic and Dean McNicoll, National Museum of Australia, unless otherwise stated.
  • Australian dress register ID:

    310
  • Owner:

    National Museum of Australia
  • Owner registration number:

    2005.0005.1337
  • Date range:

    1883 - 1886
  • Place of origin:

    England
  • Gender:

    Female
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Object information

Significance statement

This fine wool dress dates from about 1885 and belonged to one of the daughters of pastoralist, William Pitt Faithfull, founder of the pioneering merino stud, Springfield.

The tight fitting, boned bodice and bustled skirt decorated with lace flounces and frills are of the style fashionable among the middle and upper classes in Britain and Europe during this period. In a maturing colony female free settlers and their Australian-born daughters used fashion to maintain and reinforce their social status within Australian society.

The narrow fit of the bodice and skirt waistband suggest the dress belonged to the youngest Faithfull girl, Lilian. The manufacturer's label reads 'David Jones & Compy/Sydney'. Lilian may have purchased the dress ready-made from the department store or she could have had it made-to-measure by one of the company's skilled dressmakers.

By the mid-1880s, fine wool was one of Australia's most important exports. Faithfull was growing wool of an exceptional quality and yield, and Springfield merino wool was exactly the type of wool sought after by the British textile industry to make quality clothing. The dress (its style, the fibre it was made from, its manufacturing history and the life story of the women who may have worn it) permits an exploration of the interconnectedness between the wool-growing properties of pastoral Australia and the textile and fashion industries of Britain and Europe during the nineteenth century.

The dress was acquired by the National Museum of Australia as part of the Faithfull family and Springfield Merino Stud collections in November 2004 and Miss Faithfull's descendents affectionately refer to it as the 'pink merino'. The dress forms part of a collection that includes costume dating from 1750 to 1970 and material relating to the history of wool-growing, sporting memorabilia, domestic items, children's toys, decorative arts and associated photographs and other ephemera. This collection was gathered by the Faithfull and Maple-Brown families for over 170 years. It reflects the development the wool growing industry and illuminates daily life during the early settlement of rural Australia.

Author: Cheryl Crilly, 31/05/2011.

Description

Dating from about 1885, this full length dress is made from fine wool, is pink/musk in colour and is elaborately trimmed with cream lace. The tight-fitting bodice is lined and boned, with a high standing collar trimmed with lace that is identical to that used on the cuffs of the full length sleeves. The bodice has lost its original fastening; copper ball buttons featuring an anchor motif have been added at a later stage. Attached to the waist tape of the bodice is a gold-stamped label reading DAVID JONES & COMPY/Sydney. On each side of the text is an emblem; one appears to be a British coat of arms (the text is illegible) and the second reads 'SYDNEY & LONDON'.

The skirt is voluminous and its shape would have been maintained by a bustle. The original bustle pads have not survived, but the internal tapes and the semicircular horizontal boning used to support this foundation piece are intact. The main panel of the skirt has been hand shirred at the yoke and hem, and is pleated and smocked with heavy boning to maintain its tunnel shape. A second layer of fabric (often referred to as top skirt or apron) is draped over an underskirt panel extending out from the shirred band at the centre front. The apron drapery is finished with lace panels, creating layers of multiple flounces and frills.

History and Provenance

Faithfull was granted land south of Goulburn in 1827. By the 1850s Springfield was a prosperous and well-established property. In 1844 Faithfull married Devonshire migrant and teacher, Mary Deane, and together they raised nine children. Their daughters Florence, Constance and Lilian were active members of the Goulburn region and Sydney society, and attending balls, calling on visitors or shopping all required appropriate dress.

Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information

The first of the Faithfull family in Australia was William Faithfull (1774-1847) Born in Hampshire, in February 1792 he came to Australia as a private in Captain Joseph Foveaux's (1767-1846) company of the NSW Corps. After Faithfull left the Corps in 1799 he was employed as the manager of Foveaux's farm and was granted land at Petersham Hill, Sydney in the same year. In 1804 he married Susanna Pitt, who had arrived in Sydney from England in 1808.

Faithfull's eldest son, William Pitt Faithfull (1806-1896) was granted land on the Goulburn Plains in 1827 where he settled, calling his property Springfield. The property grew from a land grant with very good wool-growing potential and a few modest buildings into a pioneering merino sheep station. In 1838 Faithfull established Springfield as a merino stud with ten rams selected from Sir William Macarthur's Camden Park flock. In 1845 he married Devonshire migrant and teacher, Mary Deane (c.1813-1889).

Mary Deane was born in Devonshire England around 1813. She was 25 years old when on 14 May 1838 she, her mother and older sister (both named Ann), her Uncle Robert and her little nephew Edgar boarded a ship in Plymouth, England and sailed for Australia. The ship arrived safely in Sydney just over 3 months later. Mary and her sister Ann wasted no time in establishing themselves in the colony. By September 1838 they had opened a small exclusive school for young ladies. Among the students were Alice and Susannah Gibson, nieces of William Pitt Faithfull, through whom - it is believed - Mary and William met.

In January 1844 Mary and William married at St James' Church in Sydney and Mary moved to Springfield sheep station with her mother, sister and nephew. As Springfield grew and evolved so did the Faithfull family. Between 1845 and 1959 Mary and William had nine children: William Percy, George Ernest, Henry Montague, Reginald, Florence, Robert Lionel, Augustus Lucian, Constance Mary and Frances Lilian.

By the mid nineteenth century William Faithfull had become a prominent Australian pastoralist. He and his son Lucian bred sheep renowned for their exceptional wool, and the Faithfull family became wealthy, important members of colonial society. Over 170 years the ownership and management of Springfield passed down through six generations of the family.

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

The style, colour and size of the dress suggest it probably belonged to Lilian Faithfull, daughter of Mary and William Pitt Faithfull, founders of the pioneering merino sheep station, Springfield.  In 1844 Faithfull married Devonshire migrant and teacher Mary Deane, and between 1845 and 1859 they had nine children.

By the time Lilian and her sisters Florence and Constance were born Springfield was well-established and relatively prosperous, and the Faithfull family were among Australia's colonial elite. William Pitt Faithfull had begun exporting wool to London during the 1830s. By the mid-1880s, when Miss Faithfull's dress was made and worn, his youngest son Lucian had taken over management of Springfield and was growing wool of an exceptional quality and yield. Springfield merino wool was exactly the type of wool sought after by the British textile industry to make quality clothing like Miss Faithfull's dress.

The Faithfull girls may have lived on a property that was a two-hour carriage ride from the closest town and a lengthy train journey from Sydney, but Florence, Constance and Lilian were active members of the Goulburn region and Sydney society. Stepping out in this day dress Miss Faithfull could have been attending an afternoon tea, calling on a friend, or perhaps shopping in Sydney. She would have accessorised appropriately with pointed walking shoes or boots and a pair of short kid leather gloves. A coarse straw hat and perhaps a parasol would have shaded her clear complexion from the bright Australian sun.

Miss Faithfull could have purchased her dress ready-made from David Jones or had it custom-made by a tailor in the costume department. Miss Faithfull need not have visited David Jones to purchase her fashionable dress. By the 1880s the company had established extensive postal departments and it is possible Miss Faithfull - as a rural customer - took advantage of this service.

Lilian was the only one of the three Faithfull girls to marry. She married William Hugh Anderson, the manager of Springfield, in 1898. Lilian and William lived at 'Camelot', near Camden, and gave birth to their daughter Clarice around 1900.

Descendents of the owner of the dress affectionately refer to it as the 'pink merino' on account of its musk pink hue and the soft, fine - possibly merino - wool used to make it.

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

Miss Faithfull's dress was manufactured from wool characteristic of the fine Australian merino wool that, by the 1870s, had become the country's most important product and export. By the 1880s, when the dress was made, the majority of Australia's finest wool was shipped to London and sold to manufacturers throughout Britain and Europe. In the Yorkshire mills Australian merino wool was being transformed into cloth and sold back to an Australian market in want of fine textiles and clothing.

During the 1880s wool was a popular and fashionable fabric for clothing, and would have been an ideal choice for the style Miss Faithfull desired. The fine wool absorbed the pink dye evenly and achieved a close fit for the bodice and a soft drape for the skirt.

Miss Faithfull's dress is of a style fashionable between 1883 and 1885. During this period an elaborately decorated voluminous skirt was the most outstanding feature of women's clothing. Miss Faithfull's bustle would have emphasised her narrow waist, as well as supporting and showing off the layers of fine fabric and lace frills. The matching yet contrasting bodice was also a popular choice. It is exceptionally fitted, features tight pleats and a high collar, and was characteristic of a fashion period beginning to favour more tailored, suit-like styles for women's clothing. The bodice would have been a perfect fit for Miss Faithfull, and here she was greatly assisted by the use of a corset that would have cinched her waist and ensured 'excellent posture' at all times.

While Miss Faithfull's dress was modelled on fashions of Britain and Europe, it also communicated information about the owner's position in Australian colonial society. Florence, Constance and Lilian were the daughters of a successful pastoralist, and their choice of dress reflected their class and social status. The quality of the fabric and the expertise of the dressmaker would have been recognised as costly to procure. The fitted bodice with tight, narrow sleeves and the extravagant skirt restricted movement and made strenuous activity difficult. The owner of this dress was clearly of the leisure class; she could afford not to work.

This garment has been exhibited

Miss Faithfull's dress went on display in the Australian Journeys gallery, at the National Museum of Australia, in November 2008. Australian Journeys is one of the museum's permanent galleries. The gallery explores the personal stories of migrants, travellers and traders and how objects connect places in Australia with places abroad. Australian Journeys looks at the social, political and economic impacts of journeys, beginning in the period before European settlement in Australia and continuing through to the 21st century.

The exhibit featuring Miss Faithfull's dress explores the relationship between Australian wool export and the manufacture of woollen cloth in Britain, the transnational nature of the David Jones department store, the impact of British and European fashions on Australian society, and the lives of the women who wore this dress.

  1. Place of origin:

    England

  2. Owned by:

    Florence, Constance or Lilian Faithfull, daughters of Mary and William Pitt Faithfull. The girls were born in 1851, 1854 and 1859 respectively, and while the dress could have belonged to any of them the narrow fit of the bodice and skirt waistband suggest the owner was Lilian, who was of a slighter build than her sisters.

  3. Worn by:

    One of the three Faithfull family daughters, Florence, Constance or Lilian

  4. Place:

    Worn in Goulburn and possibly Sydney.

  5. Made by:

    It is possible the dress was made in the United Kingdom and shipped to David Jones & Company, or was designed and made by dressmakers employed at the David Jones department store in Sydney.

    It is unknown whether the dress arrived in Australia as a bolt of pink woollen cloth, or as a ready-made garment, but we know - from the garment's label - Miss Faithfull purchased her dress from the David Jones department store. Welsh born Jones arrived in Australia in 1838 and went on to play a significant role in providing Australian colonial society with access to the latest international fashions.

  6. Made for:

    One of the three Faithfull family daughters, Florence, Constance or Lilian

Trimmings / Decoration

Lace

Cream lace at neckline, outer and inner sleeve cuff. Skirt trimmed with lace panels to form apron drapery.

Tucking

Fine pleating centre front of skirt, hemline, front and back of the bodice. Gathering on skirt, neck/shoulder.

Fibre / Weave

Pink, twill weave wool overall garment. Undyed plain weave and twill weave cotton fabrics incorporated in the lining of the garment.

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye

Manufacture

All seams are machine sewn. The trimmings, gathering and draping/positioning of the fabric in the skirt are attached using running stitch and hand sewing. The boning pieces in the bodice are fully covered and attached by hand using a whip stitch and hemming stitch. The waist tapes are also attached by hand. The two finely pleated frill decorative elements at the base of the skirt have been attached by hand, using running stitch after the pleating had occurred.

Label

Attached to the waist tape of the bodice is a gold-stamped label reading DAVID JONES & COMPY/Sydney. On each side of the text is an emblem; one appears to be a British coat of arms (the text is not legible) and the second reads 'SYDNEY & LONDON'.

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

Cut

  1. Bias
  2. Straight

Fastenings

Bodice fastens with hook and eyes (at neck and below buttons) and copper metal ball buttons with anchor design. The buttons appear to be a later addition and have lost almost all of their pink colour.

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

Stiffening / Lining / Padding

The stiffening devices appear to be metal.

There are perspiration pads, hand sewn into the underarm areas of the bodice.

Measurements

bodice skirt
Girth
Neck 415 mm
Chest 810 mm
Waist 660 mm 660 mm
Hip 920 mm 1130 mm
Cuff 240 mm
Hem circumference 920 mm 11850 mm
Vertical
Front neck to hem 480 mm
Front waist to hem 140 mm 1040 mm
Back neck to hem 500 mm
Back waist to hem 95 mm 1150 mm
Sleeve length 610 mm
Horizontal
Neck to sleeve head 180 mm
Cross back 350 mm
Underarm to underarm 300 mm
Convert to inches

Additional material

Articles, publications, diagrams and receipts descriptions

National Museum of Australia online collection record

http://www.nma.gov.au/collections-search/display?irn=74525

Australian Journeys galley, National Museum of Australia

http://www.nma.gov.au/exhibitions/australian_journeys/gallery_highlights?result_371315_result_page=3#slideshow-gallery

Australian Journeys educational resource featuring pink wool dress

http://www.nma.gov.au/education-kids/classroom_learning/units_of_work/australian_journeys

Other related objects

The dress was acquired by the National Museum of Australia as part of the Faithfull family and Springfield Merino Stud collections in November 2004. The dress forms part of a collection that includes costume dating from 1750 to 1970 and material relating to the history of wool-growing, sporting memorabilia, domestic items, children's toys, decorative arts and associated photographs and other ephemera. This collection was gathered by the Faithfull and Maple-Brown families for over 170 years. It reflects the development of the wool-growing industry and illuminates daily life during the early settlement of rural Australia.

Link to collection online

Condition

There are minor isolated pulled threads present generally over the woollen fabric.

Evidence of repairs

There are several small holes on the lower front, proper right of the skirt that have been repaired. The raw, fraying edges of the holes have been turned under and hand sewn using a hemming stitch to the front face of the repair fabric. The patch is attached on the underside of the wool fabric.

Insect damage

There is evidence of previous insect infestation in the form of grazing and small holes. This damage is particularly evident on the front panels of the skirt.

State

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

Damage

  1. Discolouration
  2. Holes
  3. Iron stains
  4. Stained
  5. Worn

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