Sisters of Mercy Reception Dress

Contributed by: Mercy Heritage Centre

Front view Back view Back detail Waist yoke detail Gathering detail Front detail Shoulder detail Back detail Back belt Sleeve detail Staining on the buttons Staining on the bodice back Staining on the front of the dress Staining on the shoulders Staining on the bodice front The Central Queensland Herald 20-08-1936 Catholic Leader, 1935.12.26, page 17
  • Australian dress register ID:

    534
  • Owner:

    Mercy Heritage Centre
  • Date range:

    1934 - 1935
  • Place of origin:

    Queensland, Australia
  • Gender:

    Female
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Object information

Significance statement

This dress is very significant as it is the only original Reception dress held in the collection of the Mercy Heritage Centre in Brisbane. A Reception dress is important to the Postulant and is worn at a discreet religious ceremony to signify her transition to Novice Sister.  

 As part of religious training a female enters the Sisters of Mercy as a Postulant –this is a female who aspires to the religious life but who has not yet been admitted into the Congregation. After six months as a Postulant and acceptance into the Congregation, a Reception Ceremony is held where the Postulant is clothed in the habit of a Novice Sister and is given her religious name. This is a very significant ceremony in the life of a Sister of Mercy. Sister Mary Paschal Crotty wore this dress on 26/12/1935 at her Reception Ceremony. 

 Interestingly this dress was then worn by the Novice's sibling, Mary Margaret Crotty when she married Bruce Roderick (1936). 

 This is an indication that the dresses worn by Novices would follow the current fashions. The 1930's dress style saw the return a more feminine shape after the boyish fashions of the 1920's. This dress is typical of the 1930's style as it is defined by the return of the waist, more defined shoulders and a skirt that was longer and more flared.  

Author: Helen James , 14 April, 2014.

Description

An ivory, floor-length Reception dress made on classical lines.

The v-neck leads to shirring down the centre of the bodice.

The shoulders are defined with shoulder pieces that have been machine embroidered with cream and black flower motifs.

The waist is highlighted by a diamond shaped yoke machine embroidered with cream and black flower motifs in the centre. It gathers in the fullness of the floor length, full circle skirt.

The back is fastened with 18 fabric-covered buttons and loops running down the centre of the back from the neck to the waist, the buttons are sewn on left. A half belt with a fabric-covered buckle of the same dress material completes the back fastening.

The sleeves are close fitted, with pointed cuffs and four covered buttons with loops at the wrist, the buttons are sewn on the right. There are small, inserted stiffeners at the top of each sleeve that give the sleeve some definition, these are possibly made of buckram/linen and the ivory rayon satin.

This dress is a return to a more femine shape after the boyish fashions of the 1920's. This 1930's style is defined by the return of the waist, more defined shoulders and skirts that are longer and more flared.

History and Provenance

The Crotty Family owned Craigmore Station outside Springsure in Queensland. They sold it to retire to Toowoomba so the children could be educated and then bought Norbert Park, a cattle property at Barcaldine.

Mr Martin Crotty and Mrs Ellen Agnes Crotty had five children: Mary Margaret, Patricia Ellen, Irene Paschal, Brian Patrick and Martin Francis (Frank) Crotty.

Mr Martin Crotty died 20/10/1929 before either daughter wore the dress. Mrs Ellen Crotty attended both occasions the dress was worn, she died 21/09/1967.

Irene Crotty boarded at St Saviour's School, Toowoomba run by the Brisbane Sisters of Mercy after her parents moved to Barcaldine.

Anne Keppel is the god daughter of Mary Margaret Roderick and was left the dress upon her death in 1973.

Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information

Irene Crotty, born 13/05/1916, died 25/09/1997, Brisbane Sisters of Mercy Reception date - 18/12/1935

Mary Margaret Roderick nee Crotty born 1907, died 20/12/1973;

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

This dress is the only original example of a Reception dress worn by a Brisbane Sister of Mercy that the Mercy Heritage Centre in Brisbane has in its collection. 

Where did this information come from?

Newspapers:

Catholic Leader, 26/12/1935 page 17

The Central Queensland Herald 20/08/1936

Funeral notices and prayer cards of the Crotty family

  1. Place of origin:

    Queensland, Australia

  2. Cost:

    Unknown

  3. Owned by:

    Sister Mary Paschal Crotty (nee Irene Crotty), Mary Margaret Roderick (nee Crotty) and Anne Keppel

  4. Worn by:

    Sister Mary Paschal Crotty and Mary Margaret Roderick (nee Crotty) 

  5. Occasion(s):

    Sister Mary Paschal Crotty's Reception ceremony (1935)

    Mary Margaret Crotty's wedding to Bruce Roderick (1936)

  6. Place:

    All Hallows' Chapel, Brisbane (Sister Mary Paschal)

    St Joseph's Catholic Cathedral, Rockhampton (Mary Margaret)

  7. Designed by:

    Unknown

  8. Made by:

    Unknown

  9. Made for:

    Sister Mary Paschal Crotty 

Trimmings / Decoration

Tucking

Three tucks beneath each shoulder piece, five tucks at the top of each sleeve and two tucks on the inside of each elbow.

Embroidery

Machine embroidered cream flowers with black detailing on both shoulder pieces and the waist yoke.

Fibre / Weave

The dress is made from ivory rayon satin. 

The inserted stiffeners on the top of the sleeve are possibly cream/ivory buckram or linen on one side and they are ivory rayon satin on the otherside.

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye

Manufacture

Machine sewn dress and embroidery detail. Buttons, loops and the buckle are all hand sewn.

Label

No label, this is a home made dress.

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

Cut

The skirt is cut on the bias, evident by a seam running diagonally down skirt while the bodice is cut on the straight grain.

  1. Bias
  2. Straight

Fastenings

There are 18 ivory rayon satin covered buttons running down the centre back, with coordinating ivory rayon satin fabric loops. The buttons are sewn on the left.

There are four ivory rayon satin covered buttons on each cuff, with coordinating ivory fabric loops.

There is a metal hook and fabric eye on the left side seam at the waist.

A half belt with a fabric-covered buckle of the same dress material completes the back fastening.

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

Stiffening / Lining / Padding

The inserted stiffeners on the top of the sleeve are possibly cream/ivory buckram or linen on one side and they are ivory rayon satin on the otherside.

Measurements

gown
Girth
Neck 510 mm
Chest 845 mm
Waist 710 mm
Cuff 195 mm
Hem circumference 4065 mm
Vertical
Front neck to hem 1420 mm
Front waist to hem 1158 mm
Back neck to hem 1525 mm
Back waist to hem 1135 mm
Sleeve length 646 mm
Horizontal
Neck to sleeve head 124 mm
Cross back 325 mm
Underarm to underarm 407 mm
Fabric width 1168 mm
Convert to inches

Belt: 27mm (W) 231mm (L)

Waist yoke: 192mm (Top to bottom) 50mm (Width at side seams)

Shoulder pieces: 80mm (Maximum height) 124mm (Width)

Shoulder insert: 141mm (L) 40mm (W)

Dress Themes

Worn by Sister Mary Paschal (Irene) Crotty at her Sisters of Mercy Reception ceremony and by Mary Roderick (nee Crotty) as a wedding dress.

Condition

Rust coloured discolouration all over, most prominantly along the bottom of the skirt; very small holes throughout skirt. We had the dress assessed for cleaning and were advised that it was not possible to remove the stains. 

The dress has been boxed for storage until it becomes part of our exhibitions.

Evidence of repairs

None

Insect damage

None

Mould damage

None

State

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

Damage

  1. Crease
  2. Discolouration
  3. Holes
  4. Stained

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