Ladies black crepe de chine dress

Contributed by: Manning Valley Historical Society

Black Crepe de Chine Dress c.1930-1940 Close view of black and silver plastic 
art deco pin Removable cream modesty panel Sweat absorbency insert Charles and Jane Mathers (nee Evenden) Parents of the Misses Mathers Mrs Jane Mathers Miss Dorothy (left) and Emily Mathers
  • Australian dress register ID:

  • Owner:

    Manning Valley Historical Society
  • Owner registration number:

    Mosaic 3618
  • Date range:

    1930 - 1940
  • Place of origin:

    Wingham, New South Wales, Australia
  • Gender:

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Object information

Significance statement

This dress may have been worn by either Dorothy or Emily Mathers, sisters who were raised in a strong Methodist family and community. As spinsters, these ladies inherited their family dairy farm which was managed by Mr.Harold Barlin. Like other rural ladies of their generation, they spent their time doing handcrafts, keeping house for Mr Barlin, attending Bible study and contributing to their community.

This simple tailored black dress in lovely draping crepe de chine would have been practical to wear at community or church events during the day or evening by either of the ladies.

The cheaply manufactured plastic art deco pin is an interesting addition to the garment as it demonstrates the Miss Mathers 'awareness' of accessorising. It is well known that these ladies were never seen without their hats and gloves and some of the hats in our collection now provenanced to these ladies show their interest in following fashion trends.

I believe this dress demonstrates their interest in balancing being seen within the community as well dressed and fashionable with following the Methodist principles of frugality. The well made dress has been darned and worn through repeated wearing and the pin has been ingenuously repurposed.

This dress is a fine example of day wear for the 1930's period.

Author: Marsha Rennie, 29th June 2011.


Simple shift style dress with low waist. The dress opens to the front with a detachable modesty panel in cream. This panel is secured at the back of the neck with a press stud. It is also secured at the neckline with a plastic art deco pin in black and silver. To ensure the pin does not slide free, a black thread has been bound repeatedly around the length of the pin with a stitch securing the pin on either side of neckline.

Two matching lace panels formed of piping made from the same fabric run from the neckline down to the waist. The same piped lace is inserted into panels on either side of the collar. Four pleats commence at knee level and run to the hemline. The back has 5 small pleats running from knee to hem. There is also 5 small pleats at the back of neckline.

The dress has long sleeves fastening at wrist with a press stud to produce a tapered form. At the head of the sleeve is two short rows of stitching which produce a gathered effect.

Under one armpit is a piece of machine stitched and over locked beige cotton fabric possibly used for sweat absorbency. Safety pins have been used to secure either side. The other is missing.

There is a belt and a simple covered oval buckle made from the same fabric.

History and Provenance

Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information

Dorothy E Mathers 1899-1992 and Emily Priscilla Mathers 1902-1989 were 2 of 3 daughters born to Charles (1861-1939) and Jane Mathers (1872-1945) (nee Evenden).

Information on the family may be found in the book "The Evenden Journey from Rye SUSSEX England TO New South Wales Australia by Sylvester E. Jubb.

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

Dorothy and Emily (Emmy) Mathers were two spinsters that lived on their inherited family dairy farm on Dumaresq Island , just north of Taree from 1899 onwards. The 'Miss Mathers' as they were known, came from a strong Methodist family , as was the case with many residents of Cundletown and the surrounding islands on the north/eastern outskirts of Taree.

It is believed the ladies who attended Bible Study throughout their lives , were always well dressed and were never seen without hats and gloves. This is supported by the range of items brought into MVHS by their live-in farm hand and carer Mr Harold Barlin.

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

This dress is representative of tailored ladies day wear of the 1930's.

  1. Place of origin:

    Wingham, New South Wales, Australia

  2. Owned by:

    Manning Valley Historical Society.

  3. Worn by:

    One of the 'Miss Mathers' although looks likely to be more of Dorothy Mathers style and fit.

  4. Occasion(s):

    Day Dress

  5. Place:


  6. Made by:

    Local Dressmaker or by one of the Miss Mathers themselves.

  7. Made for:

    One of the 'Miss Mathers'

Trimmings / Decoration

Cream modesty panel runs from neckline to waist.

Black and silver plastic pin secures neckline below collar


Lace panels formed from piping made of Crepe de Chine

Fibre / Weave

Black Crepe de Chine

Cream Crepe de Chine modesty panel

Cotton sweat absorbency pad.

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye


All seams are machine sewn. The hem is hand sewn. Buckle has been covered (glued) with black Crepe de Chine.


No manufacturer's label. Probably home made.


Darn on back left buttock.

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


  1. Bias
  2. Straight


Press studs secure sleeves and modesty panel. Safety pins secure sides of sweat pad.

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

Stiffening / Lining / Padding



Neck 640 mm
Chest 1000 mm
Waist 840 mm
Hip 960 mm
Cuff 200 mm
Hem circumference 1600 mm
Front neck to hem 1100 mm
Front waist to hem 720 mm
Back neck to hem 1160 mm
Back waist to hem 730 mm
Sleeve length 560 mm
Neck to sleeve head 100 mm
Cross back 300 mm
Underarm to underarm 480 mm
Convert to inches

The cream modesty panel measures 94cm in length. At the back of the neck it measure 13cm in width tapering down to 2cm on either end.

Dress Themes

This well tailored black dress was a very practical choice for either of the Miss Mathers. It could be worn to a church event for either dressy day or simple tailored evening wear.

Additional material

Other related objects

A large number of hats, dresses and accessories that belonged to Emily and Dorothy Mathers are in the MVHS collection. These were brought to us for conservation by Mr Harold Barlin who managed the ladies family farm. There are also many costume items dating pre 1900 that would have been owned by their mother or grandmother found in the family home.


One sweat absorbency pad is missing.

Evidence of repairs

One patch has been repaired by darning over the back left buttock.

The brooch has corroded but any attempt to remove it could damage the garment.


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


  1. Holes
  2. Parts missing
  3. Worn
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