Barn's Family dress

Contributed by: Illawarra Historical Society

Dress inside waistband print skirt patch hem patch disintegration from dye
  • Australian dress register ID:

  • Owner:

    Illawarra Historical Society
  • Owner registration number:

  • Date range:

    1825 - 1830
  • Place of origin:

    Lancashire, England
  • Gender:

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Object information

Significance statement

This is an important and charming printed cotton dress that was worn by a female member of the Barnes family from Lancashire, England. The family believed the dress was worn to Queen Victoria's coronation procession in 1837. The dress, however, dates earlier than this and is likely to have been the woman's best dress from about 1825-1830. The dress was no doubt considered special to be worn for such an occasion. It appears to have been made by an accomplished seamstress as it is stitched with strong thread and fine hand stitches. It was made to last. The skirt is lined with a carefully stitched band of cotton to give it extra weight and form. The dress would have been worn with several petticoats and would have reached to the ankle. Information about the family and when they came to Australia is scarce.

Author: Lindie Ward, 7th September 2009.


Brown print on cream cotton fabric, long gathered skirt on high waist.

Centre of front bodice pleated.

Long puffed sleeves gathered to wrist band.

Round neckline.

Piping is used to stiffen the centre front, at the centre back fastening and on the edge of all bodice seams.

The buttons at the back are hidden under a fabric band.

The skirt is gathered onto the bodice with fine cartridge pleats.

A blue printed cotton patch has been sewn at the centre front hem.

History and Provenance

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

This is an example of one of the first printed cottons.

This garment has been exhibited

This was exhibited in the exhibition '200 years of Fashion' in December 2008 until March 2009 at the Illawarra Historical Society.

  1. Place of origin:

    Lancashire, England

  2. Cost:


  3. Owned by:

    A member of the Barnes family.

    Probably owned and worn prior to 1837.

  4. Worn by:

    Woman of the Barnes family.

  5. Occasion(s):

    According to family lore was worn to Queen Victoria's Coronation procession (1837).

  6. Place:


  7. Designed by:


  8. Made by:

    Probably by a professional seamstress.

  9. Made for:

    Member of the Barnes family.

Trimmings / Decoration


On shoulder, waist and around sleeves.


Gathered and pleated from high waist to neckline.

Fibre / Weave

Two shades of brown print of leaves on cream background.


  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye


Extremely well made and strongly stitched with thick linen thread.

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


The sleeves are bias cut at the front but the left sleeve back is cut on the straight, indicating that the dressmaker was using precious fabric very thriftily.

  1. Bias
  2. Straight


Cream coloured bone buttons, each with three holes, fasten at the back.

The sleeve buttons have been replaced.

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

Stiffening / Lining / Padding

The bodice is lined with bias cut cotton fabric.

A 145mm band of cotton fabric is beautifully sewn around the hem to make it firmer, with finer thread than that used for the structural seams.


Waist 800 mm
Hem circumference 3500 mm
Front neck to hem 1300 mm
Front waist to hem 1000 mm
Sleeve length 600 mm
Fabric width 820 mm
Convert to inches

Shouder to waist: 300 mm (High waisted Empire style)

Dress Themes

Special occasion wear

Additional material

Link to collection online


The brown dye has degraded the pattern so there are holes where the flowers have been printed especially on the lower skirt.

Evidence of repairs

The hem has been repaired with blue printed cotton fabric, not matching the original.

A later patch has been made from the yoke and top of the sleeve from a man's white cotton pique shirt and roughly hand-stitched. The shirt was been machine stitched so dates to about 1900.


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


  1. Discolouration
  2. Fading
  3. Holes
  4. Worn
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