Coat dress worn by Mrs Hilda Grinter

Contributed by: Museum of the Riverina

Dress made and worn by Hilda Grinter (nee Guttler) Back view of Hilda's dress Pocket detail of Hilda's dress Hilda with son Neville (aged 3 months) Hilda Guttler (Grinter), Christmas 1931 Hilda with Neville (aged about 2 years) Ink(?) stain on back of dress skirt Left side shoulder seam Collar damage Fabric detail - showing holes, frayed areas Blue coat dress handmade by Hilda Grinter (nee Guttler) Overcoat made by Hilda Grinter (nee Guttler), 1930s Overcoat lining and inside pocket (detail) Hilda on her wedding day, 1932
  • Australian dress register ID:

  • Owner:

    Museum of the Riverina
  • Owner registration number:

  • Date range:

    1931 - 1935
  • Place of origin:

    Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia
  • Gender:

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Object information

Significance statement

Hilda's dress is of Historic and Aesthetic significance.

The pattern of the fabric - featuring both gumnuts and Eucalyptus leaves - is uniquely Australian in both its colours, design and quirky nature. This fabric is a good example of pre-World War II synthetic fabric, most likely a type of polyester. The pattern of fabric is bright and unmistakably Australian. The gold gumnuts and green/blue Eucalyptus leaves of this garment pose a stark contrast to conceptions of this period in history, as one where the bleak surrounds and hardships of the Depression could be reflected in the clothing people wore.

Most importantly, this garment is a rare example of everyday dress from this period, and is especially valuable due to the associated documentation and provenance.

Author: Michelle A. Maddison, 19th August 2010.


Home-made 3/4 length house coat or coat dress with long sleeves.

The fabric is synthetic (possibly polyester), covered with a blue gum leaf and yellow gum nut design. The cuffs, pocket tops and collar have made from an orange cotton fabric.

Machine made, however the hem has been hand sewn.

The coat is unlined. White cotton strip sewn around above hem line - possibly a false hem?

History and Provenance

Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information

Hilda's paternal grandparents - Moritz and Beata Guttler - were Lutheran Germans who immigrated to Australia in 1875. Hilda's father Paul was seven when his parents arrived in Australia. In 1898, he drew a block of land by ballot at what was then known as Cockatoo Island, forty miles west of Wagga. The land was virgin forest, comprising 588 acres of pine and gum trees. This property was named 'Hill Plain', as there was plain type country, creek flats and a large sandy hill. On 10 April 1901, Paul married Amelia Seidel at the family property 'Hill Plain' (Tungamah) and the couple made their new life at 'Hill Plain' (Galore). Their early life was very hard, with droughts, rabbits and many cockatoos. Hilda Emelie Grinter (neeGuttler) was born in 1905 at Wagga Wagga, an elder sister to Dorothea 'Dorrie' Guttler.

From various books in the Guttler/Grinter collection, we can ascertain snippets of information about Hilda:

On 21 November 1920, Hilda was confirmed into the Lutheran Church and was presented with an illustrated Bible

In 1914, she was attending Galore School, where she won a prize for Poetry (18/12/14)

By 1919 she was a pupil of St. John's Parochial School Grade VI, in Jindera, NSW

On 25 February 1932, at the age of 27, Hilda married Arthur Grinter at the Methodist Church in Wagga Wagga. Local photographer Leslie McNeil took their official wedding portrait. The couple lived at 'Drayton Park' and Mangoplah.

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

This garment is representative of the fashions of the early 1930s, and is a rare surviving example of everyday wear from Depression era Australia. This coat is one of three garments from this period made and worn by Hilda in and around the Wagga district. From photographic evidence, we know that she wore it in the early years of the 1930s - the first photograph being taken at Christmas 1931, and the latest dating approximately to the years between 1933 and 1935.

Both the Guttler and Seidel families can be seen as representative of the Lutheran Germans who migrated to the Riverina during the 19th and early 20th centuries, often to escape religious persecution.

Where did this information come from?

Notes accompanying the donation of material relating to Hilda Grinter, and also word of mouth passed on by daughter (donor). Hilda herself attached handwritten notes to a number of the items donated, which recorded their significance. Family history compiled by the Guttler and Seidel families.

This garment has been exhibited

This garment has not yet been exhibited.

  1. Place of origin:

    Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia

  2. Owned by:

    Mrs Hilda Grinter

  3. Worn by:

    Mrs Hilda Grinter

  4. Occasion(s):

    At home

  5. Place:

    On family property Hill Plain (Galore), in and around Wagga Wagga

  6. Designed by:

    Unknown - possibly Hilda

  7. Made by:

    This garment was home-made by Hilda Guttler, and worn prior to her wedding to Arthur Grinter. She continued to wear this coat dress (or dress coat) after giving birth to son Neville, as shown in attached photographs.

  8. Made for:

    Mrs Hilda Grinter

Trimmings / Decoration

Coat trimmings - collar, cuffs and pockets - are of orange cotton. The cuff and pocket tops are shaped.

Fibre / Weave

1. Overall coat made from a synthetic fabric (possibly polyester). Design is blue gum leaves with yellow and orange gum nuts, white background.

2. Trim - including collar, cuffs and tops of pockets are made of an orange cotton.

3. White cotton strip sewn above hemline on interior - possibly a false hem?

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye


Although the coat has been machine sewn, the hem has been sewn by hand.


The coat appears to have a false hem, suggesting that the length was altered.

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


Both the synthetic and cotton fabrics have been cut on the straight.

  1. Bias
  2. Straight


Hilda's coat was originally fastened down the front with buttons (now missing). The coat also had a matching wide belt, as evidenced in the associated photographs.

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

Stiffening / Lining / Padding

The coat is unlined, and raw seams are clearly visible on the coat interior.


Cuff 320 mm
Hem circumference 1360 mm
Back neck to hem 1190 mm
Sleeve length 620 mm
Neck to sleeve head 130 mm
Cross back 340 mm
Underarm to underarm 440 mm
Convert to inches

Dress Themes

The Museum has three photographs showing Hilda wearing this garment, all taken on different occasions.

Photograph 1

The first was taken on Christmas 1931, and on the back of the photograph, Hilda has written a dedication to her fiance Arthur Grinter. The fact that she has sent Arthur a photograph of herself wearing the dress, and she is wearing it at Christmas time could suggest that the dress coat at this time was either new, or worn for special occasions. Perhaps she even made it especially for Christmas that year? In this instance, Hilda appears to be wearing the garment like a dress, with buttons done up at front, and belt. In addition, Hilda is wearing a fashionable wide-brimmed hat, necklace, dark stockings and shoes. This photograph was probably taken in the yard of the family home.

Photograph 2

This photograph depicts Hilda with her son Neville (aged 3 months), taken in the garden of the family home, circa 1933. Here, Hilda again wears the coat done up with belt, and wears a straw hat and dark stockings and shoes. She does appear to be wearing a floral skirt and possibly a light blouse underneath the coat.

Photograph 3

Again, depicts Hilda with her son Neville (aged about 18 months), taken in the garden of the family home, circa 1934-5. Once again, another garment (possibly a printed dress) is worn underneath the gumnut coat. She has a brooch at the neck, and dark stockings. On her head, Hilda is wearing a cloche style hat.

Additional material

Other related objects

The Museum holds a substantial collection of material relating to Hilda Grinter (nee Guttler), most of it donated by her daughter Joyce. This collection includes Hilda's wedding dress, items from her glory box, wedding notes and invitations, the Kewpie dolls from the front of the bridal cars (dressed by Hilda herself) and other mementoes of Hilda's life in Wagga Wagga.

Some of the most poignant items are those which reveal everyday life in the Riverina of the 1930s. These include:

* Two German rust-less nickelled spoons, purchased by Hilda in 1932 - her first spoons

* Two trivet stands. One made for Hilda by Arthur, and the other made by Hilda for her glory box

* Milk strainer and milk scoop handmade by Arthur for his new wife

* Embroidered apron commemorating flight made by aviatrix Amy Johnson between London and Darwin, 1930 (handmade, and well-worn)

* Fine lawn embroidered handkerchief carried by Hilda on her wedding day (1932) and also by her daughter Joyce on hers (1958)

* Bead ring stored inside a 'Crown' Safety Matches box, with note reading 'Oh if I could only make you mine'. This was the prize inside a 'pass the parcel' type game that was traditionally played at wedding teas in the early 20th century. The bride-to-be would end up with the ring.


Buttons from the front are missing. The button holes are frayed. There is a red (ink?) stain on the bottom at the back of the garment. The collar is frayed and the seam on the left hand shoulder has given way. There is some evidence that the orange cotton fabric has faded - this is particularly evident on the collar, where the holes reveal a darker orange colour underneath. At the back of the garment, there are additional holes (caused by fabric wear) and also some pulls in the fabric's surface.

Evidence of repairs

There is no evidence of repairs, but the coat has obvious signs of wear and tear - for example; frayed sections and pulled threads on back, some worn spots have become small holes.

Insect damage


Mould damage



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


  1. Discolouration
  2. Fading
  3. Distorted/warped
  4. Frayed
  5. Holes
  6. Parts missing
  7. Stained
  8. Worn
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