Hand embroidered, Chinese silk wedding dress worn by Mary Box

Contributed by: Box Cottage Museum

Wedding Dress, Mary Box 1918  front Wedding Dress Mary Box 1918  side Wedding Dress, Mary Box 1918 back Skirt Waist Fasteners appear to have been altered Cigarette burn, (R) front panel of skirt Belt / sash with crocheted bobbles and cords Sailor collar with piping, lace, roses Detachable Left Cuff Marriage Certificate, Alonzo & Mary Box 12/6/1918 Photograph, Alonzo & Mary Box 12/6/1918
  • Australian dress register ID:

    573
  • Owner:

    Box Cottage Museum
  • Owner registration number:

    MAV 00003b
  • Date range:

    1913 - 1918
  • Place of origin:

    Oakleigh, Victoria, Australia
  • Gender:

    Female
[Collapse all]

Object information

Significance statement

This wedding dress was worn by Mary Louisa Box nee Closter on the 12th June, 1918, for her marriage to Alonzo Box, a recently returned Gallipoli veteran. It is also significant because of its association with the Box family, an early pioneering family who emigrated from Sussex, England to the Moorabbin district, Victoria in the 1850s. The Box family were pioneer market gardeners who grew produce for the growing city of Melbourne.

John Box 1841-1913 emigrated with his parents in 1854 and after helping in the family market garden in Brighton, rented land in 1862 in Tucker Road, East Brighton (now East Bentleigh). John married Martha Sheldrake and they had 10 children. Alonzo Box, their 9th child, became a pavier/pitcher building the bluestone drains and channels for the roads and sewerage of the growing Moorabbin Shire. He enlisted in the army in WW1 and served in Gallipoli, France and Flanders, returning to Oakleigh in February 1918. He married Mary Louisa Closter on June 12th, 1918.

Alonzo’s sister Rebecca, a missionary in China, sent a bolt of Chinese, hand-embroidered, silk to Mary Closter for her wedding  in 1918.  She was in the first party of Methodist Missionaries who left Australia in 1890 for the Chinese Inland Missions. During the Boxer Rebellion of 1900-01, Rebecca's Mission was attacked by Boxers but she escaped and was evacuated to Shanghai where she later married Nicholas Viloudakia, a Greek silk merchant. Nicholas had been part of the Mission's rescue party.

In addition to its interesting family history, the wedding dress has cultural significance as it represents garments worn in the immediate post war era. The acquisition of the hand embroidered silk fabric at this time must have been a prized possession and perhaps a precious gift from Rebecca to Mary, her future sister-in-law. 

Author: Joan Moore member of City of Moorabbin Historical Society Box Cottage Museum, 12/4/2015.

Description

A cream two piece wedding dress made from a bolt of hand embroidered Chinese silk for the marriage of Mary Closter and Alonzo Box on June 12th, 1918.  

The bolt of Chinese silk was sent by Alonzo’s older sister, Mrs Rebecca Viloudakia, a missionary in China, who was married to a Greek silk merchant. The machine sewn dress was made by a dressmaker in Dandenong, Victoria

The jacket is blouson, with a front opening and is gathered at the waist by a band enclosing a drawstring. The collar is a sailor style that forms a slight/high V-shape front neckline. Four vertical roses are separated by three bands of lacework. The back of the jacket is plain silk.

The right front of the jacket has a panel of embroidered roses, band of lacework and a facing fold that encloses 4 fastening presses. There are crocheted bobbles on the front representing buttons. The left jacket front also has the panel of embroidered roses, lacework and matching fold for the 4 fastening studs.

The full length inset sleeves are gathered to a cuff that fastens with silk covered buttons. The sleeves have floral embroidery down the outside centre line. The left sleeve has an extra detachable cuff with embroidery on the flounce that matches the bottom panel of the skirt. It is held in position around the wrist by 4 white metal press studs.

The skirt sits above the ankle. It consists of 5 panels slightly gathered at the back waistline with a left side placket 21cm with hooks and eyes and press studs. The waistband is lined with petersham and has 6 whalebone inserts. The front of the skirt has small pleats to fit the 3 decorated panels to the waistline. The front has 3 bands of lacework around the lower part. 3 panels form the centre front each embroidered with a different floral pattern. The back of the skirt is plain with 3 bands of  lacework rising from the hem, which is sewn with spoke work stitch.

The long waist sash/belt is plain silk with embroidered ends and 3 silk balls with crocheted caps suspended on 3 crocheted silk chains. It has a rose knot with 2 metal press stud fasteners. There are a variety of floral designs embroidered on the material including ‘corner motifs’ on the 2nd inner front panel of skirt.

History and Provenance

Rebecca Box 1863 - ?, was the elder sister of Alonzo Box and sent the hand embroidered Chinese silk material to Mary Closter for her wedding dress. Rebecca was known as 'Faith' because of her evangelical zeal. She was in the first party of Methodist Missionaries who left Australia in 1890 for the Chinese Inland Missons. During the Boxer Rebellion, 1900-01, Rebecca's Mission was attacked by Boxers but she escaped and was evacuated to Shanghai where she later married Nicholas Viloudakia, a Greek silk merchant. Nicholas had been part of the Mission's rescue party and they had a son.

Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information

Alonzo Sheldrake Box 1851-1958 son of John Box 1841- 1913 and Martha Louisa Sheldrake Box  d1896

Mary Louisa Closter 1889-1980 daughter of Albert Closter and Maria Bolch Closter  1846 - 1920

William Box 1834-1902 and Elizabeth Avis Box 1835- 1913

Mary and Alonzo Box had no children but fostered a young girl.

George William Box 1870 -1933 m1902 Elizabeth Honor Tippet-Box d 1953

Avis Ann Box-Eldridge  1912-2011

Nancy Eunice Curtis-Lawson b1927

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

Box Cottage is a reconstruction of a pioneer cottage that was built c1840 by an unknown pioneer. In 1868, William and Elizabeth Avis Box who had emigrated from Sussex England in 1854, purchased the property and raised 13 children while developing a market garden. William's brother, John Box, had emigrated with his parents also in 1854 and, after helping on the family market garden in Brighton, rented land in 1862 in Tucker Road, East Brighton (now East Bentleigh). John married Martha Sheldrake and they had 10 children. Alonzo Box, their 9th child, became a pavier/pitcher building the bluestone drains and channels for the roads and sewerage of the growing Moorabbin Shire. He enlisted in the army in WW1 and served in Gallipoli, France and Flanders, returning to Oakleigh in February 1918. He married Mary Louisa Closter on June 12th, 1918.

The City of Moorabbin Historical Society was founded c1960 by descendants of pioneer settlers and citizens concerned about recording and preserving the history of the local area of the City of Moorabbin. Many artefacts were donated to the CMHS following a call to the community c1960 and again in 1985. This wedding dress was donated to CMHS in 1985 via Mrs Nancy Lawson, a descendant of the Box family, and the information has been obtained from the Heritage Book compiled by Avis Box-Leigh and presented to CMHS in c1990

In 1970 Mr Laurie Lewis told Moorabin City Council that there was an early settlers' cottage on his property, Lewis Timber Pty Ltd., Jasper Road, Ormond, Victoria. CMHS, City of Moorabbin Council and Lewis Timber Pty Ltd worked together to reconstruct this cottage on land in the adjacent Joyce Park. With the grant from Victoria's 150th Anniversary Celebration Committe and generous donations of building materials from Lewis Timber Pty Ltd., the Box Cottage was reconstructed in 1984 using its original doors, window frames, chimney and roof shingles .

Box Cottage Museum houses an eclectic collection of artefacts that reflects the life of residents in the Parish of Moorabbin from the settlement of Brighton in 1841 through to the establishment of The Moorabbin Roads Board 1862 to the city of Moorabbin 1934-94.

CMHS acts as custodian of Box Cottage Museum opening the Cottage and its exhibits for viewing by the public and generally as a resource for citizens with an interest in local history.

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

In 1841, Henry Dendy, a farmer in Sussex England, purchased 5,120 acres in a "Special Survey of Land in Brighton" in the Port Phillip District of Australia at 1 pound per acre. The area of land extended from Port Phillip Bay to East Boundary Road and from North Road to South Road. In 1850, Dendy began to sell allotments, and pioneers and early settlers bought or rented the lots for market gardens, dairy farms, vineyards, orchards, poultry farms, flower and seed farms. When the Gold Rush of the 1850s brought new immigrants in search of wealth, these farmers supplied the food for the growing City of Melbourne .

William and Elizabeth Avis Box emigrated from Withyham, Sussex, England 1854 and settled in the pioneer cottage in East Brighton (now Ormond ), Victoria c1868 where they lived and raised 13 children. They developed and managed a market garden until William died in 1902.

Alonzo Box was a nephew of William Box. His father was John Box, a brother of William, who lived in Oakleigh.

John Box emigrated with his father George and mother Mary and family in 1854. John worked on the family market garden in Brighton until 1862 when he rented land in Tucker Road, East Brighton (now Bentleigh) and married Martha Sheldrake. They had 10 children - Alonzo was the 9th - and John was a Methodist Lay Preacher and active in the local community. Martha died in 1896 and John married Eleanor Amelia Codrington Rushall in 1900 with whom he had 3 children.

Where did this information come from?

Mrs Nancy Lawson, grand niece of Alonzo Box and member of CMHS Box Cottage Museum.

Ms Avis Box-Leigh, descendant, compiled a family heritage of the Box family and presented the book to the City of Moorabbin Historical Society c 1990

This garment has been exhibited

This wedding dress has been on display at Box Cottage Museum, Joyce Park, Jasper Road, Ormond, Victoria, Australia since the donation by Mrs Nancy Lawson in 1985.

The Wedding Dress was entered on the Victorian Collections website of Museums Australia Victoria in 2012 in the Box Cottage Museum Collection Catalogue Number 00003b.

A PROV Grant in 2014 enabled CMHS to purchase a Museum Glass Cabinet from TASHCO and a Mesh Mannequin from Lindie Ward for the safe display of this unique dress at Box Cottage Museum.

A Glen Eira City Council Community Grant 2014 has enabled CMHS to publish a Leaflet depicting the Dress and also a Booklet entitled 'The Story of Box Cottage'.

  1. Place of origin:

    Oakleigh, Victoria, Australia

  2. Cost:

    Unrecorded. Material was given to Mary Closter by Alonzo's elder sister Rebecca Viloudakia who was married to a silk merchant in China.

  3. Owned by:

    Mary Louisa Box nee Closter for her marriage to Alonzo Box on June 12th 1918

    Mrs Avis Box-Eldridge (1912-2011), the 4th daughter of George and Elizabeth Tippet-Box inherited this dress. George (1870-1933) was the 9th child of William and Elizabeth Avis-Box who lived in Box Cottage, Ormond between 1865 -1915.

    In 1985, Mrs Nancy Lawson, the grand niece of Alonzo Box donated the dress to the City of Moorabbin Historical Society, Box Cottage Museum.

  4. Worn by:

    Mary Louisa Box  June 12th 1918

  5. Occasion(s):

    Marriage of Mary Closter and Alonzo Box June 12th 1918

  6. Place:

    Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Oakleigh, Victoria, Australia.

  7. Designed by:

    Mary Closter and unrecorded dressmaker in Dandenong, Victoria, Australia.

  8. Made by:

    Unrecorded dressmaker in Dandenong, Victoria, Australia.

  9. Made for:

    Mary Louisa Box nee Closter

Trimmings / Decoration

Piping

Piping around collar neckline, inset sleeves and cuff attachment

Lace

Bands of hand made lacework around front skirt panels, cuff attachment, collar

Tucking

The front skirt is gathered by small pleats to fit the waist

Embroidery

Both sides of the Jacket front, collar, sleeves, cuff attachment, and skirt front panels are hand embroidered with a variety of floral patterns,

Fibre / Weave

Hand embroidered Chinese silk. Colour cream

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye

Manufacture

The dress was manufactured in 1918 by an unrecorded dressmaker in Dandenong, Victoria, Australia. It is mainly machine sewn. The cream silk is hand embroidered featuring many different floral designs. The lace inserts are hand made. Hand Crocheted caps adorn the bobbles on the belt/sash and form the false button bobbles on the front of the jacket. Hand Crocheted cords attach the bobbles to the belt/sash.

Label

none

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

Cut

Blouson jacket with long set-in sleeves and 5 panelled ankle-length skirt

  1. Bias
  2. Straight

Fastenings

4 x hooks & eyes on waistband of skirt.

2 x press studs on tie knot of belt/sash.

4 x press studs on skirt placket left side.

4 x press studs on detachable left cuff.

4 x press studs on jacket front facing.

Drawstring cord inserted in hem of blouson jacket.

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

Stiffening / Lining / Padding

Petersham lining of waistband.

6 x whalebone inserts in waistband.

Cotton wool inside 4 x false crocheted buttons on jacket front right.

Measurements

belt collar jacket lace skirt
Girth
Chest 630 mm
Waist 610 mm 610 mm
Hip 1020 mm
Cuff 75 mm
Hem circumference 1630 mm 2090 mm
Vertical
Front waist to hem 949 mm
Back waist to hem 990 mm
Sleeve length 450 mm
Horizontal
Neck to sleeve head 140 mm
Cross back 460 mm
Underarm to underarm 460 mm
Fabric width 90 mm 205 mm 510 mm 230 mm 530 mm
Convert to inches

Belt / Sash    L 1630mm     W 90mm  

                  Embroidered ends       L 140mm  

                  Embroidered tie knot   L 75mm W 55mm

                  Fasteners                   2 x silver Studs  D 5mm    2 x silver Presses  D 5mm

                  Bobbles                      6 x L 35mm  Circum. 60mm  crocheted cap  17mm

                  Crochet cord                6 x L 60mm    

Jacket         Back  Nape to Waist      L 350mm

                  Front Neck to Waist       L 380mm

                  Fasteners                    4 x Silver Press & Studs    D 8mm     (inside facing)

                                                   4 x Crocheted bobbles      D 25mm    (outside )

                   Collar    (Sailor)          W back 115mm   W Sides 205mm 

Detachable  (L)Cuff                        W 225mm  L 120mm

                    Fasteners                  4 x Silver Press & Studs  D8mm                                         

Skirt             Panels                      W  Back 530mm; Front 530mm; R) Side 510mm; L) Side 520mm

                   Lace inserts                3 x  L 420  x W  60       Gap between    W60mm

                   Left side placket          L 230mm   W 100mm

                   Fasteners                  4 x Black Press  D 8mm, 4 x black studs D 8mm

                                                   3 x black Hooks L 10mm   2x black Eyes,& 1x silver  L 10mm

Waistband    Petersham                 W 50mm doubled

                  Whalebone                 6 x    L 50mmx W 40mm

Roses          Skirt Front Panel          1 x Central  L 140mm x W 40mm

                          2nd Panel           2 x  Vertical Corner   L  12mm x 10mm   W 3mm

                          3rd Panel            3 x Verical   L 12mm x W 3mm

                   

Dress Themes

This outfit in a cream colour silk consisting of a jacket and skirt may have thus been able to be worn again for special occasions.

Additional material

Articles, publications, diagrams and receipts descriptions

The original Marriage Certificate of Alonzo & Mary Box 12/6/1918, MAV Cat. No. 00003a

A large wedding photograph of Alonzo and Mary Box in a glass covered wooden frame 12/6/1918  

MAV Cat. No 00003c

Condition

There is a cigarette burn on the front right panel of the skirt (1mm x 3mm).

There is some 'foxing' on the lower skirt material.

Evidence of repairs

The fasteners on the skirt waistband - hooks and eyes - appear to have been repositioned at some time.

State

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

Damage

  1. Discolouration
  2. Holes

comments

Add new comment

[Collapse all]