Ted Docker's Wool Suit and Scarf

Contributed by: Individual

Suit front with scarf Suit back Ted Docker scarf waistcoat front waistcoat back Suit jacket
  • Australian dress register ID:

    388
  • Owner:

    Individual
  • Date range:

    1930 - 1940
  • Place of origin:

    Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  • Gender:

    Male
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Object information

Significance statement

Ted Docker's suit is a fine example of Australian menswear from the 1930s. Ted Docker was a founding member of the Communist Party of Australia, formed in 1920. The suit is said to have been made by the Communist Party of Australia's own tailor, Tim Stillman, a suggestion supported by the fact that the suit is professionally made, yet has no label. The suit was donated to the Powerhouse Museum collections by Ted's son John Docker in 1991. Within the context of the Powerhouse Museum's own collection, it is an example of early 20th century menswear that is not 'High Fashion'.

The significance of this suit lies in its completeness and excellent provenance as an example of menswear from the 1930s, also to its direct link with Australian politics of the time, the ferment of which was caught up with global political developments culminating in the outbreak of the Second World War. In Australia the Communist movement was perceived with suspicion by the government and as a real threat to democracy and national security. As a result Ted, along with other family members, was monitored and kept under surveillance by various Government agencies including the Commonwealth Investigation Branch, the Commonwealth Investigations Service and later the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).

As a full-time delegate of the Communist Party of Australia, Ted traveled constantly, attending rallies and conferences and meeting with people. His ideological position, reflecting the party's anti-capitalist beliefs, meant that during this time he never owned a house or a car. Yet as an important representative within the party, he owned an individually crafted suit by the party's own tailor. The suit was probably his most valuable possession.

The onset of the Cold War after WWII triggered a decline in Communist Party membership in Australia. After the coal strike of 1949, Ted Docker ceased to be a party leader, though he remained a member till his death in 1983. He was still wearing the suit in the 1970s, including to his son's wedding in July 1971. With the fall of the Iron Curtain and many former Communist countries declaring independence, the Party dissolved in 1991.

Author: Einar Docker, 25 June, 2012.

Description

Three piece suit, comprised of a jacket, waistcoat and trousers of charcoal grey wool, with cream and maroon stripe, and a scarf of black wool, with grey and cream stripe.

Jacket

Single breasted with center-front opening and partial sateen lining.

Turn down collar with wide lapels, left lapel features a button hole.

Vented left breast pocket, with deep front hip pockets with flaps, and internal right breast pocket.

Straight sleeves with button accent on cuff.

Waistcoat

Single breasted, v-neck with center-front opening.

Fully sateen lined, with sateen back.

Low cut armholes and deep v-points on lower front edge.

Vented pockets at left and right breast and hip, plus internal left breast pocket.

Trousers

Straight leg pleated into waistband, with center-front button fly.

Left and right side seam pockets, with additional change pocket on the right, and vented back hip pockets.

Wide, shaped waistband with adjustable belts with metal slide buckles at left and right back, and two inverted v-points at the back with button holes for braces.

Scarf

Back wool with alternating cream and grey vertical stripes, with cream horizontal stripes at each fringed edge.

One long edge is overlocked in grey and faded green thread.

History and Provenance

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

This suit and scarf is an example of working-class clothing of the 1930s.

Ted Docker - b.1894 -d. 1983

Left school at 16, and went into carpentry, learning the trade from his father Henry James Docker (the tools used by both father and son form part of the John Docker collection at the National Museum of Australia).

He was a member of the I.W.W. (Industrial Workers of the World) until this organisation was declared illegal in Australia in 1916.

In October 1920 he became a founding member of the Communist Party of Australia, and served the party in a number of positions over the next forty years. He participated in a number of industrial struggles, including the timber workers' strike of 1929, the miners' lockout of 1929-30, and the miners' strike of 1949.

He was also present during, although not involved in, the Kalgoorlie Riots of 1934. He encouraged the workers to demand better pay and working conditions, rather than demanding the expulsion of foreign workers. Ted Docker's attempt to stop the riots against Yugoslav and Italian miners and their families is described in Katherine Susannah Prichard's novel, 'Winged Seeds', published in 1950.

  1. Place of origin:

    Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

  2. Owned by:

    Edward "Ted" John Docker, a Sydney carpenter who became an Official of the Communist Party in the 1930s.

  3. Worn by:

    Ted Docker

  4. Occasion(s):

    Ted Docker's promotion to an Official of the Communist Party of Australia.

  5. Made by:

    Tim Stillman, a tailor and member of the Communist Party, for Ted Docker when he became an Official of the Communist Party.

  6. Made for:

    Ted Docker

Trimmings / Decoration

Three decorative buttons on the cuffs of the jacket.

Fibre / Weave

Jacket is charcoal grey worsted wool, with cream and maroon stripe.

Jacket body and sleeves are lined with sateen.

Waistcoat is charcoal grey worsted wool, with cream and maroon stripe, with a grey sateen back. The lining is ivory sateen with blue, gold and brown pin stripe pattern.

Trousers are charcoal grey worsted wool, with cream and maroon stripe. The waistband is lined with ivory sateen with blue, gold and brown pin stripe pattern.

Scarf is black wool in a herringbone weave, with alternating vertical grey and cream stripes, and horizontal cream stripes at either end.

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye

Manufacture

Manufactured by Tim Stillman, a tailor and member of the Communist Party, for Ted Docker.

Woollen items are machine sewn, with sateen lining sewn in by hand.

Scarf is machine woven mohair wool, with machine overlocking down one edge.

Alterations

Trousers have been shortened with hand stitching.

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

Cut

  1. Bias
  2. Straight

Fastenings

Jacket, center-front fastened with three black, plastic buttons, with three black, plastic decorative buttons on either cuff.

Trousers have black, plastic button front fly fastening.

Waistcoat center front fastens with five black, plastic buttons.

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

Stiffening / Lining / Padding

Jacket body is lined is brown sateen, while the sleeves are lined with ivory sateen with blue, gold and brown pin stripe pattern.

Waistcoat lining is ivory sateen with blue, gold and brown pin stripe pattern.

Trousers waistband is lined with ivory sateen with blue, gold and brown pin stripe pattern. There is also some cotton lining around the pockets.

Measurements

jacket trousers waistcoat
Girth
Chest 1070 mm 897 mm
Waist 794 mm
Vertical
Front neck to hem 355 mm 295 mm
Back neck to hem 725 mm 470 mm
Sleeve length 620 mm
Inside leg 670 mm
Outside leg 980 mm
Horizontal
Neck to sleeve head 150 mm 110 mm
Underarm to underarm 564 mm 420 mm
Convert to inches

The scarf is 265mm wide, by 1175mm long.

Dress Themes

This suit is a good example of 1930s working class clothing.

Condition

Evidence of repairs

The center-back hem of the jacket, between wool and sateen lining, has been repaired by hand.

Trousers have been hemmed. Trouser lining is discoloured from wear.

State

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

Damage

  1. Discolouration

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