Australian dress register ID:175
Owner:Alstonville Plateau Historical Society Inc
Place of origin:Jamberoo, New South Wales, Australia
While wedding gowns are not rare in museums, this gown has such good provenance that it is significant. There is much documentation associated with this gown and its maker, Isabella Cooke. The APHS has a very comprehensive collection of Isabella's handiwork illustrating her fine needlework, sewing, quilting, crochet, tatting and embroidery.
Four years after her marriage she travelled to the north coast, first of all settling in Bexhill, then Corndale and finally retiring with her husband to Alstonville. Her husband, Samuel Robert Cooke, was a successful dairy farmer, who went into business as a Stock and Station Agent with the principal auctioneering firms in Lismore.
This gown can be seen as a window into middle class rural life in Australia in the late Victorian era, because, in the attention to detail that Isabella displayed in making this dress, she reveals the hopes and aspirations attached to marriage for women of that era. Much could be written about the pioneering women whose introduction to rural life per horse and dray was anything but easy. Butchering, butter-making, candle-making, laundering and sewing were all part of the day's work. Her daughter Jessie recalled that a good knowledge of nursing the sick saw Isabella at many relatives and neighbours bedsides. In this context, such a beautiful dress must have been the focus of many of Isabella's happiest and most personal hopes.
The dress is also significant because it is extremely well made and of a very pleasing style and design. It also presents a rich potential for research, with many fabrics used, as well as threads, buttons, whale bones and sewing techniques. Isabella Cooke was an extremely gifted needlewoman and this gown is very elaborate and shows the success of the design and manufacture by a 23 year old woman. Her competence in needlework was noted throughout her life. Author: Ina le Bas: grandaughter of Isabella Cooke (abridged by Margot Stuart-Smith), 16th November 2007.
The wedding gown consists of a skirt with a bustle and a long sleeved fitted jacket in gold satin.
The jacket has a shaped bodice with darts extending to the edge of the bodice. It has a pocket edged with piping on the right hand side.It features a shirred V front with 34 fancy metal buttons outlining the V. Seventeen buttons have been sewn on the right-hand side with an opening to allow the bodice to be put on. The closure is by metal hooks and the eyelets have been hand sewn by using an awl to pierce the material then the eyelets have been blanket stitched to stop fraying. The buttons on the opposite side have shanks and metal pins to secure the closing. The jacket is made to fit an 18 in. (460mm.) waist. Piping, made on the cross, embellishes the joins between the sleeves and the shoulder of the jacket and the long sleeves have turned backs ornamented with two of the same buttons. The back of the jacket has 16 buttonholes hand stitched. The shaping is supported by whalebone. There is evidence of a 90mm. wide band of lace that was at the neck, armholes and wrists of the jacket.
The skirt is constructed from a series of shirred and pleated horizontal panels, the knife-edge pleating taking up the gathers from the shirring. Each shirred or pleated panel is 90mm. in depth. The bustle is supported by thicker cotton lining and has been edged with the same lace as was used on the jacket (Now removed)
History and Provenance
Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information
Wedding Certificate and wedding photographs available at APHS
Do you have any stories or community information associated with this?
Four years after her marriage, Isabella travelled to the North Coast first of all settling in Bexhill, then Corndale and finally retiring with her husband to Alstonville. Her husband, Samuel Robert Cooke was a successful dairy farmer whose interests were the agricultural show of the district. He was a Director of Byron Bay Butter Factory (Norco). Having gained so much knowledge from the land and its products he went into business as a Stock and Station Agent with the leading auctioneering firm in Lismore.
How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?
There is much documentation associated with this gown and its maker, Isabella Cooke. The APHS has a very comprehensive collection of Isabella Cooke's handiwork illustrating her fine needlework, sewing, quilting, crochet, tatting and embroidery. Isabella supported the local agricultural shows by entering her handicrafts, sewing and horticulture for she was a keen and excellent gardener.
Where did this information come from?
Originally donated to Cavalcade by the family of Isabella Cooke, the dress was returned to the Alstonville area by a member of Cavalcade in 2006.
Her granddaughter Ina le Bas.
Place of origin:
Jamberoo, New South Wales, Australia
Isabella Cooke nee King
Her wedding to Samuel Robert Cooke
"Curramore" nr. Jamberoo
Her wedding to Samuel Robert Cooke
Trimmings / Decoration
Pleats, gathering and shirring on the skirt, shirring on the jacket
Hand made cut on the cross
Fibre / Weave
Gold heavy satin
Lining: glazed cotton with heavier cotton supporting the bustle.
- Natural dye
- Synthetic dye
Button holes and eyelets hand sewn
Lace on neckline, wristline, and outlining bustle has been removed
- Hand sewn
- Machine sewn
Stiffening / Lining / Padding
Whaleboning covered with cotton lining material in bodice.
Stiff cotton lining supporting bustle
|Front neck to hem||360 mm|
|Front waist to hem||1040 mm|
|Sleeve length||460 mm|
|Convert to inches|
Articles, publications, diagrams and receipts descriptions
Quilts made by Isabella Cooke are in the National Quilt Collection
Other related objects
APHS has a 'Log cabin' patchwork pot holder made from the wedding gown material.
Isabella (King) Cooke designed and made her own elaborate wedding gown. She was noted for her desire to make something from nothing so that nothing was wasted, not from frugality but from thriftiness.
- Parts missing