Cotton flag dress made by Miss Amelia Ellis

Contributed by: Tinonee Historical Society

Flagdress front view Flagdress back view Flagdress right side view Amelia Ellis at Australia Day Parade Tinonee Public School 120 year celebrations 1979 Muriel and Hildred donating the flagdress Right side rear bodice Left side rear bodice back of skirt Hem of dress
  • Australian dress register ID:

  • Owner:

    Tinonee Historical Society
  • Owner registration number:

  • Date range:

    1918 - 1919
  • Place of origin:

    Tinonee, New South Wales, Australia
  • Gender:

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Object information

Significance statement

This interesting dress was made for the Victory Parade celebrations held on Australia Day 1919 in the small town of Tinonee on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales. Communities across Australia celebrated the end of the First World War in a number of ways. Tinonee's Victory Parade included the Town Band, Boy Scouts, school children and citizens dressed in patriotic costumes such as this one made and worn by local dressmaker Miss Amelia Ellis.

Australia's participation in the First World War began in 1914 when the Australian government pledged its support to Britain and the war was initially greeted with much enthusiasm across the country. However as the war went on, the effects were increasingly felt at home with communities grieving the loss of so many men. Like every Australian town and village, Tinonee felt the impact of the war with 19 local men enlisting and 12 of them killed in action.

Amelia Ellis designed and made this dress to wear in the Victory Parade. It is very much a fancy dress costume and has none of the refinements in its finish that you would normally expect to see in a dress made by an accomplished dress maker. The dress does however show a great deal of patriotism in its design and was worn with a decorated bicycle and matching hat which no longer exists.

Whilst probably made as a wear once garment, the flag dress has survived surprisingly well. It has been worn by Amelia's children Muriel and Hildred for dressing up and then many years later was rescued from a fire when it had been used to stuff a chair cushion. In recent years the flag dress has been worn by Amelia's descendants at Tinonee community celebrations such as Tinonee Public School's 120 year celebrations, which was the school Amelia Ellis herself attended.

The flag dress evidences Tinonee's participation in the First World War, the sacrifices of the local community and the celebrations when the war ended. It also evidences the skills and patriotism of its maker Miss Amelia Ellis and in many ways still provides an inspiration to the local community. It is not a surprise that this rare and unique flag dress is expected to feature in future Tinonee community celebrations.

Author: Debbie Sommers, 15 April, 2012.


Full length long sleeved dress made from fine polished cotton sateen fabric, in patriotic red white and blue colours. The bodice front has a white diagonal panel angled down to waist on each side with hand appliqued red letters "ENGLAND'S" on one side and blue letters "ALLIES" on the right side. Next to the wording is a flag joined on each side, each different from the other. Additional flags are attached to the back of the bodice. The bodice has round neckline at the front with a white sailor style collar to the back. The long sleeves are white slightly full gathered into loose fold back cuffs of red white and blue fabric. The skirt is sewn to the bodice at back, attached by hook and eye and press studs to the bodice front. The skirt has a small band at waist with the top half a flag design representing the Union Jack and remaining vertical panels of red white and blue material. The front and back panels are matching.

History and Provenance

Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information

Amelia and Edward Begbie had three children Hildred, Muriel and William (Bill) born from 1922 onward. These children lived and grew up in Tinonee. Her legacy of dressmaking has continued on with her daughters

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

The dress was designed and made to wear in the victory parade at the end of war celebrations in Tinonee, Amelia also decorated a bicycle for this event, and a hat which is no longer in existence. Time passed and Amelia met and married Edward Campbell Begbie, known as Ted. Ted had a farm on Taree Estate across the river from Tinonee, where he built a house to accommodate his family. Amelia had a box of old dresses and paraphanalia which over the years her daughters, Hildred and Muriel had fun dressing up and parading around in the flag dress and often squabbled over who would wear the flag dress.Ted also inherited some furniture from his family and subsequently one arm chair needed to be re-upholstered. Amelia needed to have more 'stuffing' so she siezed any unwanted fabric to fill the bill.

According to Muriel, more time elapsed and when her father died at 54 years of age and her Mum at 70 years, her brother Bill inherited the farm and decided to have a good clean up. On the fire, he put the chair and as he broke it up, the dress showed its presence and he rescued it from the fire.This would have happened in the late 1960's and the dress stayed in Muriel's possession since then. It has been aired since at various fashion parades and worn by Muriel's youngest daughter Marion in Tinonee Public School 120 years Celebrations .

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

The First World War (1914-1918) began when Britain & Germany went to war in August 1914. The Australian government pledged full support for Britain & the war was greeted in Australia as in many other places with great enthusiasm. For Australia, the First World War remains the most costly conflict in terms of deaths & casualties, from a population of less than five million, 416,809 men enlisted of which over 60,000 were killed & 156,000 wounded, gassed or taken prisoner. Like every other town & village in Australia, Tinonee was impacted by the war, with our memorial showing, 19 men enlisting and 12 killed in action. The effects of the war were also felt at home with families & communities grieving the loss of so many men, and women increasingly assuming the physical & financial burden of caring for their families. As the war went on, public enthusiasm fell and when the war ended communities, including Tinonee, came together to not only celebrate victory and the end of the war, but also to care for thousands of ex-servicemen, many disabled with physical and emotional wounds that had to be reintegrated into a society that was keen to put the war in the past & resume normal life. Tinonee celebrated the end of the war with a Victory Parade held on Australia Day 1919.The Tinonee Town Band, a large contingent of Boy Scouts, school children, and citizens from the town and district participated, many in fancy dress.

Where did this information come from?

Information about Amelia has come from stories written by her daughters, Muriel Adair of Old Bar and Hildred Ford from Terrigal, also from the publication (2005) "No Lilies in This Valley" - Stories of Rural Women in the Manning Valley 1850-1950.

The photographs are from Muriel Adair and Tinonee Historical Society Inc. and Jim Revitt's "The Good Old Days" - Along the Manning River and Great Lakes.

The information on The First World War was derived from the Australian War Memorial Website.

This garment has been exhibited

This garment is currently exhibited in the Tinonee Historical Museum, and is part of a war time exhibit along with other wartime posters, memorabilia and uniforms. This the only time it has been exhibited to our knowledge. The dress resides in a glass cabinet supplied by a VIM Grant through Museums and Galleries NSW, which has helped to ensure its longevity. The local Tinonee School of Arts Hall will be celebrating its Centenary 2012 -2013, it is envisaged that the dress will be part of the ongoing celebrations.

  1. Place of origin:

    Tinonee, New South Wales, Australia

  2. Owned by:

    Miss Amelia Ellis (later Mrs Begbie) then handed to her daughters Muriel Adair (Begbie) and Hildred Ford (Begbie).

  3. Worn by:

    Amelia Ellis, Muriel Adair, Hildred Ford, Marion Adair Grandaughter of Amelia, Lyn Emerton.

  4. Occasion(s):

    Victory Parade1918-1919, Back to Tinonee Celebration 1979, Bi-Centennial Fashion Parade 1988,

  5. Place:

    Tinonee, New South Wales

  6. Designed by:

    Miss Amelia Ellis of Tinonee.

  7. Made by:

    Miss Amelia Ellis who after schooling turned to dressmaking and operated her own business in Tinonee. Amelia Hildred Ellis was born and raised on a farm known as 'Waratah' on the outskirts of Tinonee. Amelia was a gifted needlewoman and had started dressmaking before she left school. Her father had a General Store in Tinonee and after the store closed down, all her sewing requirements were purchased from travelling salesmen. Many of the salesmen were Afghans who seized on this method of earning a living. At the conclusion of her schooling, Amelia's parents bought a cottage in the village of Tinonee where she plied her dressmaking trade and was joined in this venture by her younger sister Mabel. At that time all garments were handsewn. Mabel continued dressmaking until she sickened and died in the mid 1940s.

  8. Made for:

    Victory Parade following the end of the First World War.

Trimmings / Decoration

Union Jack individual pieces are machine stitched onto skirt (machine appliqued). Four flags are sewn to front and back bodice.


Self fabric bands are used to decorate collar, hand appliqued fabric lettering to front bodice.

Fibre / Weave

White cotton crepe/voile used for waistband.

Polished cotton used for white red and blue.

Cotton voile, white - flags and collar and cuffs.

Cotton sheeting used as support material in mended areas and false hem.

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye


Hand stitching on flags.

Appears to have been made in a hurry, quite possible if it was made to wear for the Australia procession.


To waistband - tucking, some stitching at left upper skirt seam, possibly to reduce sizing. Several mends to all pieces, skirt, bodice. Skirt has been shortened in two places by internal tucks.

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


  1. Bias
  2. Straight


3 press studs and 2 hooks and eyes at waist.

3 press studs on skirt opening.

4 press studs on bodice on placket.

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

Stiffening / Lining / Padding

The collar is lined with cotton voile.

Hem has a banded false hem.


Neck 500 mm
Chest 1040 mm
Waist 670 mm
Hip 1100 mm
Cuff 230 mm
Hem circumference 1700 mm
Front neck to hem 1340 mm
Front waist to hem 1010 mm
Back neck to hem 1400 mm
Back waist to hem 1050 mm
Sleeve length 570 mm
Neck to sleeve head 145 mm
Cross back 385 mm
Underarm to underarm 455 mm
Fabric width 675 mm
Convert to inches

Additional material

Other related objects

Amelia made a school sampler in 1905, whilst a pupil at Tinonee Public School. It was a small apron with assorted stitches in green thread that included an embroidered butterfly and her name. (A.Ellis) This is also on display at Tinonee Historical Museum.

Amelia also made a dark navy serge riding outfit jacket and skirt with a deep couching panel around the bottom of the skirt.


Evidence of repairs

Mending - appears to have used same fabric (original fabric).

Roughly handstitched mending - probably not by original maker.

New press studs in some places.

Repairs on the rear of bodice on both sides.

Repairs on the skirt front and on skirt back.

Insect damage

Possible insect damage with small holes mainly in the skirt.


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


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


Add new comment

  • Kylie Winkworth Sep 12

    What a wonderful provenance and a remarkable story of survival. This is one of those rare costumes which has social significance for the family and the community of Tinonee, evidenced by its use in community patriotic parades in 1919, 1979 and 1988. Fancy dress parties were popular in the early 20th century and many dressmakers turned their creative hand to make one-off costumes, adapting everyday dress patterns. It would be interesting to upload a photo of the Tinonee War Memorial with its poignant names of the dead, a loss of more than 50% of those enlisted from a very small community.

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