Margaret Ewin's wedding dress

Contributed by: Millthorpe Golden Memories Museum

Margaret Ewin's wedding dress 1904 bodice detail bodice skirt skirt detail
  • Australian dress register ID:

  • Owner:

    Millthorpe Golden Memories Museum
  • Owner registration number:

    65/0015A & B
  • Date range:

  • Place of origin:

    Greghamstown, New South Wales, Australia
  • Gender:

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Object information

Significance statement

This bridal gown was worn for a society wedding which brought together two pioneering families, the Ewins and the Kinghams, from the Millthorpe district. Margaret Ewin was 27 when she married James Kingham on July 27, 1904. They were married by Archdeacon W. King-Howell at St Matthews Anglican Church, Greghamstown.

The winter wedding in this region required a warmer fabric, hence the wool challis which would have been expensive. It is stylishly decorated with lace and silk ribbon, with a military touch. The "pigeon front" was popularised by the introduction of a new style of corset at the turn of the century that gave the figure an "S" shape. The sleeves, that droop from the shoulder and become more full at the elbow, depart from the puffed "leg of mutton" style of the 1890s, and demonstrate that bridal fashions in rural Australia were in line with those in Britain.  

The dress was accessorised with a very long tulle veil which mirrors the style of the skirt with fine rows of tucking around the hem. It has a stylishly modern embroidery pattern in one corner. The bride wore floral blossoms in her hair at the top of her veil and at the front bodice, probably wax blossoms. Her high pearl necklace may have been influenced by Princess Alexandra's penchant for pearl chokers at this time.

There is evidence that the dress has been altered, as it has been let out at the waist and back and silk rosettes have been added to the cuffs. While these alterations may indicate that this gown, like that of many brides, was worn for "best" for many years after the wedding, it is more likely that it was worn by another bride. The unaltered neckline indicates this, because evening dresses of the era usually had more revealing necklines than the high necks of bridal gowns. Whether the dress was worn again by Margaret Ewin or by another bride, the altered garment provides insight into a society in which valuable objects were not disposable.       

The importance of the dress is confirmed by the fact that it was kept so carefully and donated to The Golden Memories Museum in Millthorpe in the late 1960s, where a large ancestral community remains. The garment is also of interest because it shows that despite the distance from world fashion centres, bridalwear in rural Australia was up-to-date.

Author: Elaine Kaldy Volunteer Curator Golden Memories Museum Millthorpe NSW, March 2010.


An ivory coloured woollen bodice and skirt, trimmed with various laces, ribbon and braids.

Bodice: a boned bodice with stand collar, full sleeve shirred above the elbow, trimmed around the shoulder with chemical lace, and fine damask silk ribbon. Fastens at the back with 21 brass hooks (two have been replaced with chrome plated steel hooks), 10 hand worked eyes and 12 brass eyes, fastening in 2 layers, with 9 whalebones stiffening the bodice. Five vertical rows of cream silk herringbone stitching at the centre back. The circular yoke and the stand collar are lined with satin, and yoke is trimmed at the front with two braid motifs, with Turks head knotted drops of silk cord falling from them. Matching damask ribbon around the waist, crosses and fastens at the back with a hook and eye. The cuffs fasten with two brass hooks and hand worked eyes, and are trimmed with six rows of satin ribbon and satin rosette at the outer wrist. These have been altered. The centre front is accentuated with gathering, sometimes known as 'Pigeon Front', and is quite roughly hand sewn in places.

Skirt: small waist, opening is at the left side front, the A-line four gored skirt with tape waist band and fastens with 6 brass hooks and 5 hand worked eyes and one brass hook at the top (this has been moved across approx 4 cm). The skirt has a deep flounce around the bottom and there are four sets of three rows each of satin ribbon sewn so as to fall to a point at the centre front. The upper portion of the flounce has been shirred to match the sleeve detail. It has a cotton lining with a matching woollen flounce at the bottom. The back gore goes from narrow at the top to very wide at the bottom hem, creating a bias at the base.

History and Provenance

Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information

Margaret was one of 6 children: four boys James born 1870, Samuel born 1872, Robert born 1874, John born 1876, Margaret born 1877 and Isabella born 1879.

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

This wedding gown was made for the marriage of Margaret Ewin to James Henry Kingham.

The wedding took place on the 27th July 1904 at St. Matthews Church of England Greghamstown near Millthorpe, New South Wales.

The marriage of these two people joined two early pioneer farming families. James was the son of Charles Kingham and Margaret was the daughter of William Ewin. William settled at Greghamstown/Blayney and farmed land known as Taradale. 

The Charles Kinghams farmed land known as 'The Wattles'. Ancestors still own The Wattles.

Where did this information come from?

This garment has been exhibited

It was on exhibition at the Golden Memories Museum for many years. The gown is currently being rested in an acid free tissue and container at the museum.

  1. Place of origin:

    Greghamstown, New South Wales, Australia

  2. Owned by:

    Margaret Ewin

  3. Worn by:

    Margaret Ewin

  4. Occasion(s):


  5. Place:

    St Matthews Anglican Church, Greghamstown.


  6. Designed by:


  7. Made by:

    Unknown professional maker

Trimmings / Decoration

The dress has bands of three rows each of satin ribbon machine stitched horizontally to skirt.


Exquisite silk damask ribbon, 10.5 cm wide. Plain silk ribbon rosette on each cuff.


Two floral braid motifs on the yoke with three suspended strings of 'turks heads'.


Machine embroidered cotton net chemical lace flounce to the yoke, 15 cm wide. Machine lace on yoke and stand collar.


3 x 1.5 cm tucks at centre back


5 rows of herringbone stitching in cream silk on back tucks.

Fibre / Weave

Cream silk satin stand collar and yoke overlaid with machine lace.

Cream wool challis bodice and skirt.

Cream twill cotton sateen lining, to bodice and skirt.

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye


Bodice: machine sewn and hand finished.

Yoke: roughly tacked by hand.

Hand knotted detail on yoke.

Towards the cuff on the sleeve, there is a small area of hand sewing.

Skirt: hand hemming on the placket.

Machine sewn ribbon decoration.


Waist of skirt released by 3.5 cm, one right hand tuck has been removed to release back bodice, both cuffs altered in the same way and silk rosette added.

Some parts of the dress seem to be very finely stitched and others very rough - implies alterations.

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


Mostly on the straight grain, other than the centre back gore which is cut on the bias to give a train.

  1. Bias
  2. Straight


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

Stiffening / Lining / Padding

Nine vertical whalebones around the lower bodice.

Stand collar stiffened possibly with buckram.


bodice skirt
Chest 710 mm
Waist 580 mm 580 mm
Hip 1220 mm
Cuff 210 mm
Hem circumference 4100 mm
Front waist to hem 1010 mm
Back waist to hem 1030 mm
Neck to sleeve head 160 mm
Cross back 300 mm
Underarm to underarm 430 mm
Fabric width 970 mm
Convert to inches


Evidence of repairs

The cuffs have been altered, perhaps for the second wearing of the dress. The cuffs have been sewn together where they once hooked and a silk rosette has been added to cover this change.

The skirt waist has been let out by 4cm.

The back bodice has had one tuck let out to increase its size.

Insect damage

Insects probably moths have eaten the wool in many places - small holes.


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


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