Black dress worn by Mrs Clara Boyton

Contributed by: Museum of the Riverina

Clara Boyton Clara Boyton's black dress Evidence of repair work on back of skirt Alterations made on right side of bodice Cabinet photograph of Clara Gracie prior to her marriage David and Clara Boyton on their wedding day, Wagga Wagga, 18 December 1890 (Ernest Tooley Studios)
  • Australian dress register ID:

  • Owner:

    Museum of the Riverina
  • Date range:

    1910 - 1912
  • Place of origin:

    Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  • Gender:

[Collapse all]

Object information

Significance statement

This dress is of historic significance. While ladies of the Victorian (and Edwardian) periods are often stereotyped as being svelte, retaining their small waistlines throughout their lives, with the aid of corsetry, this garment is a lovely example showing the transition of shape of a real Victorian.

By the second decade of the 20th century (between 1910 and 1915) the differences between Victorian and Edwardian clothing became pronounced. The full flowing skirt of the 19th century evolved into a slim fairly straight one, which eventually rose above the ankles. Bodices in this period were rarely boned, and as such, were looser and baggier than their predecessors. Sometimes the wearer accentuated their figure with the application of a belt, similar to the one worn by Clara as part of this stylish ensemble. Whereas the Victorians often reserved black garb for periods of mourning, in the period prior to World War I, street clothes were often of a subdued colour, with black regularly favoured by older ladies, being both practical and elegant.

This dress features a triangular lace panel at the skirt back, which complements the separate lace 'modesty vest' worn underneath the silk blouse. The large covered buttons are a feature on both the front of the blouse and down one side of the slit in the back of the skirt.

Author: Michelle A. Maddison, 15th July 2010.


Three-piece dress worn by Clara Boyton (nee Gracie), just prior to World War I. The dress comprises:

Skirt - with triangular black lace and button detailing at front

Bodice - with button detailing on front

Modesty panel - black lace

History and Provenance

Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information

Clara Boyton (nee Gracie)

This garment has been exhibited

This garment is being displayed as part of the exhibition 'Dressed for the Occasion: A History of Textiles". It was sturdy enough to be exhibited on a mannequin.

  1. Place of origin:

    Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

  2. Owned by:

    Mrs Clara Boyton

  3. Worn by:

    Mrs Clara Boyton

Trimmings / Decoration

Further decoration on this dress is provided by the large fabric-covered buttons which run down both sides of the bodice, and down a single edge of the skirt's triangular opening.


Triangular 'modesty' panel of floral lace at front of dress, matches skirt bottom

Fibre / Weave

Fabric 1:

Black silk - bodice and skirt

Fabric 2:

Black cotton - bodice

Fabric 3:

Black lace - 'modesty panel' and triangle at skirt front

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye



There is evidence that the original bodice of this dress has been let out at the sides, presumably to accommodate the changing shape of the wearer.

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


  1. Bias
  2. Straight


Press studs and belt

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


blouse front bodice skirt
Neck 365 mm
Chest 910 mm
Waist 940 mm 610 mm
Hip 1520 mm
Cuff 205 mm
Hem circumference 1980 mm
Front neck to hem 440 mm
Front waist to hem 1050 mm
Back neck to hem 460 mm
Back waist to hem 1085 mm
Sleeve length 510 mm
Neck to sleeve head 160 mm
Cross back 350 mm
Underarm to underarm 465 mm
Convert to inches

In this case, blouse front refers to the modesty panel on the bodice.


The garment was extensively creased upon acquisition, having been stored for many years inside a hat box. A steamer was used on the garment, and the interior underskirt was gently ironed, as the creases were too extreme to be removed by gentle steaming.

Evidence of repairs

A hole or tear has been patched on the back side of the skirt (see corresponding photograph). Towards the bottom of the lace modesty panel, there are some holes in the fabric.


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


  1. Crease
  2. Holes
  3. Torn
  4. Worn
[Collapse all]