Australian dress register ID:264
Owner:Camden Historical Society
Owner registration number:1970.157
Place of origin:Camden, New South Wales, Australia
This is a significant item in the Camden Museum collection because it is an attractive item, and a good example of the simple and elegant style of a country wedding. It has interesting layers of silk in the bodice and skirt, and net lace at the high neck and lower sleeves. It has lovely features in the embroidery on the central panels of the dress and the sets of hand-covered silk-thread buttons. Although it was worn in 1899 this elegant dress has a timeless style.
The item is also significant because of its history and the romantic story of the courtship behind the dress. Ben Hodge lived in Camden where he owned a jewellery shop. He was a familiar figure in the district delivering orders to customers on horseback and walking back and forth between the town of Camden and the village of Menangle whilst he courted his sweetheart Maud Huthnance. To visit her Ben walked a round trip of 16 miles (26 kilometres), twice each week. Maud's father was the railway Station Master at Menangle and her mother was a prominent church worker and organist at St James Church of England at Menangle, as well as bringing up a family of eleven children.
Ben and Maud Hodge were happily married for 54 years until Maud's death and were prominent in the community. Ben was the Secretary of the Camden Hospital Board for over 50 years, and in 1970 he was delighted when the new Services Block at the Hospital was named in his honour. The Camden Museum has many other items which were donated by Mr. Hodge. These include a sterling-silver baby's rattle, a sovereign case, seven pocket watches, spectacles, a telescope, binoculars, a thermometer, an optometrist kit of test lenses, a tennis racquet, a mahogany-cased wall clock and many important photographs.
The dress is a good example of Australian women's fashion in 1899 and of the more fitted clothes in the transition from late Victorian to early Edwardian style. It has potential for interpretation of the customs of courtship and marriage, and the social history of the period. In its modesty with its high neck and covered sleeves the dress reflects the respect felt in the nineteenth century for exchanging vows in a church wedding. It is an example of lovely design and the skills of sewing and embroidery. Author: Cathey Shepherd and Julie Wrigley. Photos taken by Janice Johnson., 28th August 2010.
This elegant ensemble dress is made from ivory silk, with panels which have been embroidered, and a layer of lace seen at the neck and lower sleeves. The 'dress' is actually a bodice and a skirt, with the join covered by a neat hand-made embroidered belt.
The dress has a high stand-up collar of lace joined at the neck with a narrow braid. The lace on this collar is not lined. The same lace appears around the neck and at the lower sleeves but here the lace has a fine muslin lining. The lace has a delicate all-over pattern of spots and tiny forget-me-not flowers.
The bodice is a silk jacket which fits over the layer of lace and opens at the back. It has a scooped neck and is decorated with embroidered flower patterns on each side of a false opening down the middle of the bodice at the front. On the back of the jacket there is more embroidery. There is further decoration from two sets of six hand-covered silk-thread buttons. At the waist the bodice is drawn in by a series of darts and a drawstring, which serves to accentuate the waistline and achieve a fashionable 'pouched look' at the front of the bodice.
The sleeves are three-quarter length. They have two layers with the silk jacket sleeve having a slightly puffed sleeve finishing at the elbow and below that is the lace sleeve, which is gathered into a lace edging. The jacket's upper sleeve has matching flower-pattern embroidery and below that a row of six hand-covered buttons, matching the buttons on the front of the bodice.
The floor-length skirt is narrow at the waist and wider at the hem. It is made up of six slightly-flared gore panels with embroidery on the front panel, using braided work and appliqued foliate and flower patterns. The fullness in the skirt is in the side panels, and the skirt is slightly longer at the back to suggest a train. The pattern of the embroidery in the central panel at the front gets wider nearer the hem and is a striking feature showing the care which has gone into the making of the dress.
History and Provenance
Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information
After their marriage in 1899, Maud and Ben Hodge had two babies, a daughter Edna Emma in 1901 and a son Eric Victor in 1904 but both died after only seven months, and the doctor advised them against having more children.
Apart from this sadness they were happily married for 54 years. In 1953 Maud died at the age of 80 and is buried alongside her children at St John's Church in Camden. Ben lived another 26 years after his wife's death and died aged 102. He is buried beside his wife, and holds the distinction of being the oldest person buried at St John's. Because of his significant contribution to Camden, he was one of the most respected and best-loved members of the community.
Do you have any stories or community information associated with this?
In the years after her wedding Mrs Maud Hodge was an active member of the Camden community. She was a member of the Women's Voluntary Services 1940-45 and a member of the Camden Red Cross 1924-26 and 1941-45.
Mr. Ben Hodge was involved with many community groups. He was elected to the Camden Hospital Board of Management in 1901 and was its Secretary until 1956. He served in an honorary capacity until about 1935 when he was offered the position on a full-time basis.
Ben was Auditor for Camden Council; Financial Scribe to the Sons of Temperance; and Superintendent of St. John's Sunday School. In 1916 he was appointed a Justice of the Peace, a position he held until his death. Ben was President twice during the seven years he served as a member of the Camden School of Arts Committee.
Ben was the District Registrar and kept the register of births, deaths and marriages from 1916 to 1932. He was also the official Timekeeper for the Camden Show Society for over 60 years. He called out the starts for wood chopping and corn-husking in the early days before trotting races were introduced. Ben meticulously maintained the church clock over the years. He enjoyed all sports and was a keen tennis player and a great follower of Rugby League, one of his many interests.
How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?
In 1899 Camden was growing from the village of the nineteenth century to the town it became in the twentieth century. The bridegroom, Ben Hodge, had come to Camden when he was 20 years old in 1887, with ten pounds in his pocket. He set up his watchmaking and jewellery trade in the window of a grocer's shop, batching in a room at the back for the first year. He then bought a business which was in the main street of the town. Ben was still making his way in the business and had nobody to look after the shop whilst he was away, so a honeymoon was out of the question.
The arrangements for Ben and Maud's wedding underline the importance of the network of family and friends making up a community. Ben borrowed a horse from one friend and a sulky from another for the wedding. Maud's friends decorated the church, bought the bridal flowers, made the cake, and sang at the wedding. One of Maud's sisters was bridesmaid, one of her brothers was best man, and the wedding breakfast was at the home of her parents. The sense of community was stronger in the nineteenth century than in today's world, and individuals needed to be more resourceful to 'make do' in times of hardship.
Where did this information come from?
There was an account of the wedding in the local paper, THE CAMDEN NEWS, 20 April 1899, page 8.
"There was quite a stir in our little church on Wednesday the 12th inst., the occasion being the marriage of Miss Maud Huthnance, eldest daughter of Mr S. Huthnance, with Mr Ben Hodge of Camden.
The ceremony, which took place in St James Church of England was performed by Rev. C J King and was witnessed by a large number of well wishers. The church was florally decorated by lady friends with flowers and evergreens, under the very fine vision of Miss Sanderson. A bevy of greenery and white flowers with "hearts" and "mottos" thereon was the theme in the chancel and beneath where the couple stood. The bride was given away by her father, and as she entered the church the choir sang the hymn, "Perfect love". She wore a pretty dress of white silk with pearl trimming. She also carried a beautiful bouquet of flowers, the gift of Miss Sanderson. Miss Ethel Huthnance, the bride's sister, was bridesmaid and was attired in a pretty, off-white muslin adorned with lace insets. She wore a buttercup sash, also wearing a brooch of "luckybells" the gift of the groom.
Mr J Huthnance acted as best man. The newly married couple on exiting the church were hailed with the usual showers of rice and confetti. The party immediately adjourned to the residence of the bride's parents, where the wedding breakfast was partaken of. The Rev. C J King proposed the health of the bride and groom, to which the bridegroom suitably responded. The wedding cake, which was made by Mrs Stanner was indeed a work of art. The wedding presents were numerous and handsome and amongst them perhaps I should mention a beautiful box of cutlery, the gift of the congregation of St James C of E for the nine years the bride acted as organist. The gift of a very handsome butter cooler was from the Menangle Dramatic Club of which the bride had been a very prominent member since the inauguration of the society.
In the afternoon, the happy couple left for Camden, where they take up their abode."
(Transcribed as well as possible from the microfilm, as unfortunately the original page of the newspaper was torn.)
This garment has been exhibited
The dress has been on exhibition in the wedding corner display at the Camden Museum since 2000.
In 2011 the dress was professionally conserved to stabilise some small holes in the lace at the neck, and cleaned to remove surface dust acculated over time. A plastic-coated mannequin suitable for displaying heritage gowns was purchased. The dress is again on exhibition at the Camden Museum.
Place of origin:
Camden, New South Wales, Australia
Mrs. Maud Hodge (nee Huthnance) for her wedding to Mr. Philip Benjamin (Ben) Hodge of Camden. Maud was 25 years old at the time of her wedding. She was happily married for 54 years, and died aged 80.
Miss Maud Huthnance.
The wedding of Miss Maud Huthnance (1873-1953) and Mr. Ben Hodge (1877-1979).
St James Church, Menangle, New South Wales.
Miss Maud Huthnance.
Trimmings / Decoration
The hand-embroidery is striking. There is braiding, plaiting, and appliqued flowers and foliate patterns which have been drawn onto the dress and a very fine braid hand-sewn into place.
The sets of six hand-covered silk-thread buttons are a feature of the decoration. There are two sets of six buttons on either side of the front bodice and a further set of six on each sleeve.
Narrow braiding around the neckline and jacket edges of the bodice and cuffs.
A lace layer under the 'jacket'. Narrow lace edging around the high neck and cuffs of the lace sleeves.
Tucking along the skirt seams.
Hand-embroidery on the bodice at both front and back, and the skirt's central panel at the front.
Fibre / Weave
The dress is made of ivory-coloured silk. A net lace has been used for the high collar and for an inset under the bodice's scooped neck, and in the lower sleeves.
The bodice has two layers. There is a sleeveless undergarment which has the lace inset around the neck. Over this sits the silk jacket which opens at the back. The lace which can be seen at the lower sleeves is actually attached to the lining of the sleeve. The 'dress' gives the illusion of a jacket over a lace blouse, but is actually a four-piece ensemble.
The silk skirt fits over a lined half-slip which is made of heavier satin-finish cotton with stiffening at the hem. The petticoat lining is muslin.
There were also two sleeve extensions made of the same net lace as the lower sleeves. These could possibly be worn in the church to fully cover the arms and removed after the service.
- Natural dye
- Synthetic dye
The dress is hand-made and the embroidery is hand-stitched. The bodice is both hand and machine sewn. The skirt is machine sewn with hand-finishing.
- Hand sewn
- Machine sewn
The gored panels on the skirt are cut on the bias. The central panels are straight-cut. The dress and petticoat have extra fullness and length at the back to make a slight train.
There are hooks with hand-sewn loops, and press-studs down the back of the skirt. The skirt has a drawstring. The silk thread buttons are purely decorative and do not serve as fastenings.
- Hook and eye
Stiffening / Lining / Padding
The high neck has two narrow strips of stiffening in the sides to keep the neck high. These are made of fabric-covered bone.
There is an extra layer, which is 9 mm wide, of stiffening fabric, possibly a satin-finish cotton, around the hem of the skirt. There is a layer, which is 17 mm wide, of stiffening fabric on the hem of the petticoat.
|Hem circumference||3740 mm|
|Front neck to hem||1480 mm|
|Front waist to hem||107 mm|
|Back neck to hem||1600 mm|
|Back waist to hem||112 mm|
|Sleeve length||480 mm|
|Neck to sleeve head||115 mm|
|Cross back||380 mm|
|Underarm to underarm||430 mm|
|Convert to inches|
The dress is quite formal, with high neck and covered sleeves. In the 1890s this type of clothing was considered appropriate for making vows in a church setting.
Over one hundred years ago in the Camden local paper, the wedding dress was described as 'white' though it now looks cream. White became a popular option for a wedding dress after the marriage of Queen Victoria in 1840. Victoria had worn a white gown for the event so as to incorporate some lace she owned. The official wedding portrait photograph was widely published, and many other brides opted for a similar dress in honour of the Queen's choice.
Maud Hodge's dress was for a country wedding, which took place in the morning in the month of April. In its style it clearly shows an awareness of women's fashions of 1899, in the slim line fashion of the very late Victorian period. The layered design of the dress, and the amount of embroidery and hand sewing, suggest that making this dress was a labour of love.
Articles, publications, diagrams and receipts descriptions
In the files at the Camden Museum there is an interesting account written by the bridegroom:
OUR WEDDING DAY
"I was married to Miss Maud Huthnance at St James Church Menangle at 12 noon, on Wednesday April 12th 1899. On that morning I took my last dip in the Nepean River at Camden at a very early hour. Later I harnessed up a pony to a sulky and set sail for North Menangle. I arrived about 11.30 a.m., where I was thoroughly inspected by the bride from the house before going on to the church where I arrived on time. I was closely followed by the bride's party.
Shortly after the breakfast, we drove off in the sulky to Camden, going through Camden Park. When we came to the gate at the Home Farm, whom should we meet but Mrs Elizabeth Macarthur-Onslow! She was coming from Camden in her carriage. Before I could get out to open the gate, Mrs Onslow ordered her driver to pull over on the side, and the footman to get down and act as gate-opener. She then beckoned us to drive through. Of course she knew who we were and that we were just married."
The main body of the fabric is very good for its age. The lace around the high neck is in poor condition with some small holes. The condition of the sleeves is fair with dust and discolouration at the cuffs. There is some dirt on the lower hemline of the petticoat at the back.