Flapper Dress of Marjorie Florence Smith

Contributed by: The Cavalcade of History and Fashion Inc.

Marnie: Front View Skirt details Beaded neck and armholes details handkerchief hemline details More details of handkerchief effect Fabric backed to enhance the fabric print Georgette fabric print Construction details of lower tier to lining Marjorie (Marnie) Holmes (nee Smith)
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Object information

Significance statement

A Flapper Gown made of hand painted chiffon and beautifully embellished with sequins, beads and metallic threads. This softly flowing chiffon gown is known as "Autumn Butterflies" due to its patternation. Each butterfly is individually painted and embellished by hand. This gown is known in the Cavalcade collection as "Marnie".

Marjorie (Marnie) grew up in a family that had status and privilege within the community. Her grandfather John Smith was not only one of the leading pastoralist but also held a life appointment as a member of the N.S.W. Legislative Council. Her family had many benefits as a result of their prominent standing in the society of the day.

The garment is significant for its style and representation of the type of dress worn by members of this social group during the era of change when people wanted to forget the devastation of war and live a life of glamour. Tea dances were very popular, the Charleston was the dance of choice. Fashions were still femine, however as this garment shows, hemlines had been raised, garments were loose fitting without waistlines and chests were flat. The bobbed hairstyle became popular. Women had gained a new independence.

Author: Jeanette Moles, 19th March,2011.


Flapper Dress

One piece dress design styled in true 20's fashion. A beautifully embellished shift, style.

Features include a wide highish neckline, no sleeves, unfitted long line bodice, two tiered skirt falling from lowered waistline, nearer the hip level than the waist. The skirt has two tiers the lower tier is attached to a plain orange coloured under skirt, the first tier has a handkerchief effect where the points of the handkerchief like design, fall no longer than the length of the second tier.

The garment is constructed onto a plain shift underdress which also acts as a lining for the long line bodice.

Georgette fabric has an all over print unofficially called "Autumn Butterflies". The fabric design has been embellished by outlining individual butterflies with beads including sequins, seed beads, bugal beeds and also metallic thread stitchery in several colours.

History and Provenance

Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information

Marjorie Smith born in 1883 the daughter of Wallace Arabin Smith and Eliza Smith (nee Prince) .

Marjorie's grandfather was John Smith a pastoralist, sheep breeder and parliamentarian.

John Smith, who held large land grants in the Bathurst area acquired a large portion of the Rev. Samuel Marsden's sheep and bred them on Gamboola Station at Molong , they emerged as the well known Merino breed of today.

Marjorie married Norman James Holmes (born 1877) in Molong on 21st March, 1907. Norman's father, James and his mother Ellen (nee MacKillop, a relative of the now Saint Mary MacKillop) were married in Wellington NSW in 1867. James Holmes opened the first bank in Dubbo on the 2nd January 1865.

Marjorie and Norman had two daughters Elinor born 1908 and Barbara born 1911

The family lived at the property Yarrow (Annabella Boswell makes mention of this property in her Diary) before moving to the home in Bathurst which they called "Yarras".

During their ownership of "Yarras" a large brick ballroom and billard room were added (1925/26) and it is here that many a special event was held. Dinner dances were very popular.

Marjorie (Marnie) died in Bathurst in 1956.

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

Although the occasions on which the dress may have been worn are not known, it is known that the Holmes family held a great many social events at their home "Yarras" in Bathurst. The social pages of the Sydney Morning Herald record many of these events.

One particular event was the engagement party of their daughter Miss Barbara Holmes to Count Ivar Moltke of Denmark (Ivar was the son of Count and Countess Moltke of Lystrup, Faxe, Denmark). The report appeared on the 3rd June, 1938.

There were also reports relating to their other daughter Elinor Holmes . One of these accounts gives details about the marriage of Elinor and Walter Jaques Stack (an opthhalmic surgeon) on 18th February, 1930. The wedding ceremony took place in Bathurst Cathedral and the reception was at "Yarras". Most of the reports give lengthy information including the names of the promient people who attended the events.

The ballroom was added in 1925/26 and it is known that a dinner dance was held after the completion of these alterations to celebrate the occasion and as Marnie had recently returned from an overseas visit including a stay in Paris, perhaps the dress was for this special event.

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

The garment was very much the fashion of the period and would certainly have been a garment of note for the many social events that Marjorie would have attended. Marjorie Holmes and her sister Dorothy (Mrs Cecil Smith) were well known in both Sydney and the Bathurst District.

Mrs. Cecil Smith was the wife of Cecil Machattie Smith and they owned property at Clovelly (Sydney) and also in Orange (Mirridong Cudal). The daughters of both families were also well known in the local areas and also in Sydney and Melbourne. Both mothers and daughters have many references in various social reports of the time.

Both families had travelled overseas and were very aware of the current trends in fashion .It was a time when Coco Chanel, Molyneux and Jean Patou influenced fashion in Paris and Norman Hartnell had opened in London.

Where did this information come from?

Mrs. Elinor Stack (nee Holmes), daughter of the owner who was the original donor of the garment to Cavalcade, had supplied some information and her daughter Mrs. Mary Emmott has supplied supplement information. Other details have been resourced from:

NSW-Orange Bathurst Archives

NSW Government Heritage website

Morawa District Historical Society

Australian Dictionary of Biography---Online Edition

Sydney Morning Herald

This garment has been exhibited

This gown known as "Marnie" has been displayed and exhibited in a number of Cavalcade events over the many years that it has been in the Cavalcade Collection. Cavalcade has been the caretaker of this dress for approximately 40 years.

Gowns in the Cavalcade Collection have been donated with the purpose of the gowns being used to raise monies for charity. Models are carefully chosen in order that gowns are not damaged in any way. With careful monitoring gowns are retired when it is felt that the gown will suffer by further parading or exhibiting.

All gowns and accessories are stored in acid free tissue and placed in acid free boxes for storage.

  1. Place of origin:

    France - possibly

  2. Owned by:

    Marjorie Florence Holmes (nee Smith). Marjorie was born in 1883 the daughter of Wallace Arabin Smith of Gamboola and Eliza Smith. Marjorie (known as Marnie) married Norman James Holmes in the Church of England Molong on 20th March 1907. They had two daughters Elinor and Barbara. Their home "Yarras" in Bathurst was the scene of many social occasions which were recorded in both the local and Sydney papers.

  3. Worn by:

    Mrs Marjorie (Marnie) Holmes

  4. Place:

    Worn in Bathurst, New South Wales

  5. Made for:

    The garment was possibly purchased in Paris during a visit in the 1920's and made especially for Marjorie.

Trimmings / Decoration

The neckline and armholes of the bodice are embellished with bugal beads, a method used frequently to stabilise areas which are vulnerable to stress and wear.

The fabric is very delicate and without the use of interfacing (which would spoil the flow of the design) the garment would soon show signs of wear.

The other method to neaten necks and armholes was bias facings or binds however, not suited for this design.

The neckline and armholes are simply turned back and rows of beading applied.


Beading applied with the tambour method probably by hand. Metallic embroidery is also applied in the same way.

Fibre / Weave

Three fabrics can be identified in this model.

Voile - plain weave - orange colour - lining the the bodice to the hip line.

Georgette - plain weave - black with autumn coloured butterfly print - used in bodice and

two tiers of the skirt.

Poplin - Plain weave - pumpkin tone - lining the skirt portion of the design and supports

the second tier particularly.

N.B. The poplin section of the garment is not original to the design. In order to keep

the garment complete the original underskirt has been replaced. The original underskirt

was probably the same voile used to line the bodice.

Unsure as to the dye type used for this design.

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye


Privately manufactured.

Beading probably applied manually before the garment was cut (in the piece) with a tambour hook.

Seams are sewn by hand.

Hem edges on the skirt are finished with a small zig zag stitch.


Poplin section (underskirt) constructed by machine but applied to the voile lining of the bodice by hand with overstitch.

Georgette tier hand stitched to poplin.

Voile lining may be a replacement also as the lower tier of the skirt shows a small section of silk crepe de chine attached.

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


The underskirt tier has no gathering but has a split to the top of the lower tier which allows the wearer to walk freely.

  1. Bias
  2. Straight


There are no fasteners of any kind on this garment.

The garment is loose fitted, designed to fit over the head and bust easily.

Lingerie clips with press studs are attached to each shoulder. These are used to keep underwear straps from falling off the soulder.

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

Stiffening / Lining / Padding

Lining has been used to help support the whole garment.

Lining has also been used to help construct the garment, providing a place for the second tier to be attached.

The colour of the lining contrasts the black colour of the fabric in order to accentuate the butterfly print and probably to brighten the overall look of the design.

This contrast in colour is also a device to show that the wearer does not conform to traditional practices. This is consistent with the flapper image.


Neck 905 mm
Chest 945 mm
Hip 1025 mm
Hem circumference 1365 mm
Front neck to hem 927 mm
Front waist to hem 470 mm
Back neck to hem 950 mm
Back waist to hem 433 mm
Neck to sleeve head 55 mm
Cross back 360 mm
Underarm to underarm 440 mm
Convert to inches

These additional measurements may help to complete the overall proportions of the design.

Front neck to the end of the bodice is 465mm.

Front neck to end of 1st tier is 745mm.

Back neck to end of bodice (CB is a downward peak) 513mm.

Back neck to end of 1st tier 950mm.(to pointed hankerchief section).

Bottom tier length 270mm

Shoulder is 55mm.

Armhole depth is 170mm.

Shoulder to lining edge, second tier hem 865mm.

Panels on top tier 265mm long by 526mm.

Dress Themes

A Flapper of the late 1920's.

Flappers were the wearers of the garment but the garment is basically a highly embellished shift.

Flappers were young women perhaps 18 to 25 years of age, single and usually of a rebellious nature at least by their parents standards.

This style of garment was worn for evenings dancing the charleston and other dance styles popular in this Jazz era.

Additional material

Articles, publications, diagrams and receipts descriptions

Photo of Marjorie Holmes

Other related objects

The uniform of Captain George Bagot Stack. (1846-1930)



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


  1. Frayed
  2. Parts missing
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