Australian dress register ID:357
Owner registration number:H7423
Date range:1890 - 1900
Place of origin:Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
This dress is significant as the earliest labelled David Jones outfit in the Powerhouse Museum's collection. It was made by David Jones in Sydney about 1895. Established in 1838, David Jones is the oldest department store in the world still trading today.
By 1880, fashionable ready-made clothing could be bought from city department stores like David Jones and Anthony Horderns. Alternatively, a length of fabric could be bought and made up into an outfit like this one for the customer. Ready-made clothing came to dominate the market over time.
This day dress is characteristic of women's costumes during the 1890s. The flat-fronted skirt with a train at the back creates a flowing line and the boned bodice and puffed sleeves aim to emphasise the hour-glass shape that was popular at the time. Trimmings and ornamentation include handmade rosettes on the elbows and bronze beads and sequins decorating the waistband and sleeves of the dress.
Mr David Jones, a Welsh-born immigrant, set up his business with the aim of selling 'the best and most exclusive goods' and carrying 'a stock that embraces the everyday wants of mankind at large'. The dress is part of an important collection of clothing sold by David Jones stores that assists in documenting the company's history. Garments include a women's silk suit (c. 1910), a wedding dress (1938), a women's aviation suit (1940) and a men's three piece suit (1930 - 1940). All these garments were tailormade for customers at a time when the department store still offered a full and partial dressmaking and tailoring service. Author: Michelle Brown, 2007.
A day dress made from russet coloured silk and silk brocade. The dress consists of two pieces, the bodice and the skirt. Accompanying the dress is a pair of three quarter length exchange sleeves trimmed with cream lace. The dress features a form fitting bodice, shaped with thirteen internal bones and an interior waist band. The bodice, which fastens down the front, has long leg-of-mutton sleeves that have been trimmed with bronze coloured beads and sequins. The skirt hooks on to metal eyelets at the back underside of the waist band, so that the bodice supports its weight. The skirt of the dress is long and full with a train at the back. A David Jones label appears in the skirt and bodice. Another label with the owner's name can be seen sewn inside the bodice.
History and Provenance
Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information
Amy Sparrow married Frank Grimley at St Peter's Anglican Church, Sydney on September 19 1887. Frank Grimley (1853? - 1930) was a Sydney based hardware merchant and coachbuilder who by the mid 1890s was the largest wholesaler in the trade. The couple had a son and three daughters.
How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?
By the 1860s, advances in textile technology in Europe and America had made available a wider, cheaper range of fabrics, and the sewing machine, first patented in America in 1834, was in general use. While the machine made dressmaking easier, quicker and thus cheaper, the time saved in sewing seams was gradually taken up in creating dresses more complex in cut and construction and covered in a profusion of trimmings, embroidery and ornamentation. While this day dress dress was machine sewn, it is beautifully hand finished with embellishments of rosettes, beads and sequins.
David Jones offered dressmaking and tailoring services soon after its establishment in Sydney in 1838. While ready-made clothing became available from 1880, the dressmaking service remained popular among clients able to afford a customised wardrobe or wanting quality garments for special occasions.
Place of origin:
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
The dress was donated to the Powerhouse Museum in 1964 by Miss Dora Grimley, a descendant of Mrs Amy Grimley.
Mrs Amy Grimley
The dress was tailormade for Mrs Amy Grimley by David Jones. Mrs Grimley probably selected the fabric and had the dress made to size after several fittings.
Mrs Amy Grimley
Trimmings / Decoration
There are three pleats in the faille on either side of the centre front opening to the bodice. Decorative silk brocade revers draped in two folds are attached on either side of the bodice starting at the shoulders and tapering to the waist.
The bodice is trimmed with handmade silk brocade rosettes on the elbows and bronze and gold coloured beads and sequins on a band around the waist and the wrists of the sleeves.
A brown ribbon joins the two exchange sleeves.
The bodice features an upright silk brocade collar trimmed with cream lace (a modern addition) The cuffs of the three quarter length exchange sleeves are trimmed with cream lace (possibly a modern addition).
Fibre / Weave
Russet coloured silk, floral silk brocade and faille dress trimmed with bronze and gold glass beads and metal sequins. The skirt is fully lined with russet coloured polished cotton.
- Natural dye
- Synthetic dye
The dress was machine sewn and hand finished.
'David Jones & Co Costumiers, Sydney' label is sewn into the bodice and skirt.
- Hand sewn
- Machine sewn
The bodice fastens at the centre front with seventeen metal hooks and eyes. The sleeves fasten at the wrists with two metal hooks and thread eyes. The skirt fastens at the centre back with three metal hooks and eyes. The skirt hooks onto metal eyelets at the back underside of the waist band.
- Hook and eye
|Cuff||210 mm||374 mm|
|Hem circumference||3802 mm|
|Front neck to hem||1512 mm|
|Front waist to hem||1090 mm|
|Back neck to hem||1904 mm|
|Back waist to hem||1482 mm|
|Sleeve length||684 mm|
|Neck to sleeve head||99 mm|
|Cross back||320 mm|
|Underarm to underarm||406 mm|
|Convert to inches|
The girth of the exchange sleeve head is 561 mm.
Due to the absence of any unusual seams, the fabric width could not be determined.
Other related objects
Other items tailormade by David Jones include a women's silk suit (c. 1910), a wedding dress (1938), a women's aviation suit (1940) and a men's three piece suit (1930 - 1940).