Silver and blue shot silk dress

Contributed by: National Museum of Australia

All photos by George Serras, Lannon Harley, Dragi Markovic and Dean McNicoll, National Museum of Australia, unless otherwise stated. Bodice interior showing reconstructed bustle pad made by Museum conservators for display purposes.
  • Australian dress register ID:

  • Owner:

    National Museum of Australia
  • Owner registration number:

  • Date range:

    1810 - 1813
  • Place of origin:

    Devonshire, England
  • Gender:

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Object information

Significance statement

This regency style blue and silver shot silk dress dates from about 1810-1813. Its original owner is believed to have been Devonshire migrant, Ann Deane who arrived in Sydney in 1838 with her son Robert, daughters Ann and Mary and nephew Edgar. Ann's daughters established a private school for young ladies and the family remained in Sydney until 1844, when Mary Deane married William Pitt Faithfull, pastoralist and founder of the pioneering merino stud, Springfield. When Mary moved to the property, near Goulburn, NSW, she arrived with her mother, sister, nephew and all of the family's possessions, including the dress.

While the dress would have been fashionable during the Regency period (a time of classical revival in women's fashion) its Grecian-inspired high waist and columnar skirt would not have been in vogue during the late 1830s, when Ann migrated to Australia. Made of valuable silk, the dress 'along with other items of apparel' was bequeathed to Ann's eldest daughter and it became a treasured family heirloom. Five generations of women living at Springfield sheep station cared for the dress until it was acquired as part of the extensive Faithfull Family and Springfield Merino Stud collections by the National Museum of Australia in 2004.

The dress is a significant example of material culture that assists an exploration of changes in nineteenth-century fashion, Australian migration, early settlement and pastoralism, the role of women in Australian colonial society and the story of an important colonial family.

The dress forms part of a collection includes costume dating from 1750 to 1970 and material relating to the history of wool-growing, sporting memorabilia, domestic items, children's toys, decorative arts and associated photographs and other ephemera. This collection was gathered by the Faithfull and Maple-Brown families for over 170 years. It reflects the development the wool-growing industry and illuminates daily life during the early settlement of rural Australia.

Author: Cheryl Crilly, 30/05/2011.


A one-piece dress in silver and blue shot silk, with a pattern of dark blue flowers. The dress has a high waist, with a squareback neckline and a dropdown bib-front. The bodice interior is lined with cream cotton panels. The full-length sleeves have a gathered sleeve head and extended cuffs over hands, with silk floss-corded trim at the band. The five-panelled skirt is gathered at the centre back and designed to be worn over a small back bustlepad. A cotton tape drawstring is attached to the interior of the bodice, and there are blue silk ribbon ties at back (not the original ties).

Link to further information about this object

History and Provenance

The dress has been dated between 1810 and 1813, and it is probable it belonged to Devonshire woman, Ann Deane (mother of Mary Deane, who was to marry the pastoralist and founder of Springfield sheep station, William Pitt Faithfull). While the details of Ann Deane's life are unknown, we do know she was christened at Kingsteignton, Devon in November 1772 and was the daughter of landholders John and Elizabeth Frances Pidsley. Ann married Thomas Deane at Upton Pyne in Devon in 1807, and by 1813 had given birth to four of her six children.

The dress travelled to Australia with Ann Deane when she and her son Robert, daughters Ann and Mary, and grandson Edgar migrated to New South Wales in early 1838. Ann Deane's husband Thomas had died over a decade earlier, and her children had been receiving an annuity of 1000 pounds a year from their Uncle Robert Deane, a captain in the West India Company marines, who died in 1827.

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

When the Deane family embarked upon the three-month sea voyage to Australia the blue silk dress was not the only cherished possession among their luggage. The Faithfull family collection contains a range of objects and material brought from England by the Deanes, including sketches and paintings of English landscapes and seascapes (by daughters Ann and Mary), scrapbooks filled with newspaper clippings, recipes and poetry, books many of which were inscribed with affectionate messages from friends left behind and a number of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century dresses.

After arriving in Sydney Ann's daughters, Ann and Mary, established a private school for young ladies in Macquarie Place. The school operated until 1844, when Mary married Faithfull, and it was through this union that the dress found its way to Springfield sheep station in Goulburn. Mary and Faithfull had nine children between 1845 and 1859, and their eldest daughter Florence became the caretaker of the dress once her mother and aunt had passed away. Florence Faithfull became an avid collector, keeping hundreds of items left by family members when they moved away or died.

In the early 1950s Florence's niece and namesake, Florence 'Bobbie' Maple-Brown, was faced with the momentous task of sorting through the remarkable collection of material that had accumulated for over 100 years at Springfield. During renovations of the main homestead Bobbie converted two rooms of the nine-bedroom mansion into what was to become known as the Faithfull Family Museum. The blue silk dress and many others collected during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were hung in a wardrobe in the family museum, springing to life now and again when younger generations of the Maple-Brown family used them for dress-ups.

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

This dress is of the Empire style (late 1700s - 1820s) that saw a classical revival in women's fashion, inspired by Grecian robes and emphasising elegance and simplicity. A high waist, bib-front and columnar skirt made the Empire dress less restrictive than many other 19th-century styles. However, beneath this light, freeflowing garment lay several layers of underwear. A shift and petticoat were worn, as well as a stay (soft corset) with a busk to ensure correct posture. A small roll-shaped bustlepad was inserted behind the waist to lift the fabric.

When Ann Deane arrived in Sydney she and her family were part of a steady flow of free settlers from Britain and Ireland arriving in Australia during the first half of the nineteenth century. As early as the 1820s Australia's colonies began to be regarded as more than 'nurseries of depravity' - holding grounds for Britain's unwanted criminals. Convict transportation continued, but ships arriving on Australia's shores also carried European immigrants in search of wealth, opportunity and, above all, a better life. The motivation for leaving Britain behind, the emotional and physical journey undertaken, and the stories of settlement in the distant and unfamiliar lands of the Antipodes are many and varied. Emigrants with capital, others with very little, widows, disgraced British citizens, ambitious young men, single women and entire families came from a range of different social and economic backgrounds. All brought with them a set of ideals, values, traditions, imaginings and expectations that would shape the development and future of Australian society.

When Ann, her daughters and nephew arrived at Springfield in 1845 the property was developing into a successful merino stud. The homestead, however, was very modest; it had changed little since William Pitt Faithfull settled in the 1820s. Women transplanted to rural Australia as the wives and in-laws of pastoralists often had a significant effect on the physical and cultural environment of the property. Aware of the needs of his new wife and her family, Faithfull had a larger and more comfortable homestead built. The Deane women, like many who ended up in regional Australia, significantly contributed to the improvement of the household. Properties such as Springfield were often isolated, requiring them to be largely self-sufficient. Women frequently monitored household supplies, prepared produce, cultivated gardens, organised social activities and generally ensured that pioneering matured into civilised settlement.

This garment has been exhibited

During 2006 and 2007 the dress was on display in one of the National Museum of Australia's then permanent galleries, Horizons (exploring the peopling of Australia since 1788). The dress was featured in the exhibit Settlers and Settling In and presented visitors with stories of early Australian migration and settlement. The exhibit included about 36 objects drawn from the extensive Faithfull Family Collection and featured objects reflecting the family's experience as migrants, soldiers, surveyors, teachers and pastoralists. The dress was removed in 2008 when the Horizons gallery was redeveloped and was included in the Australian Journeys gallery when it opened in 2009.

The dress will be on display from June 2011 in the National Museum of Australia's newest permanent gallery, Landmarks: People and Places across Australia. Landmarks traces a broad history of Australia since European colonisation, exploring 10 big themes in the country's past through stories of Australian places and their peoples. The dress will form part of a large display module focussing on the settlement and development of colonial Sydney.

  1. Place of origin:

    Devonshire, England

  2. Owned by:

    It is likely this dress belonged to Ann Deane, who migrated to Australia with her family in 1838. The Deane family brought with them domestic items, literature, personal keepsakes, mementos, clothing and accessories from a range of periods. Several of the women's dresses were passed down through five generations of the Deane, Faithfull and Maple-Brown families of Springfield sheep station, Goulburn, NSW.

Trimmings / Decoration

Two rows of silk cord trim used at the cuffs.

Cotton tape drawstring for securing at the top front of the bodice and blue silk ribbon tie at back.


silk ribbon, cotton tape drawstring, silk cord trim

Fibre / Weave

Blue/grey shot, twill weave silk brocade (floating threads on the back). Plain weave cotton lining fabric for bodice and sleeves.

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye


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


  1. Bias
  2. Straight


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


Chest 620 mm
Waist 320 mm
Hip 1170 mm
Cuff 240 mm
Hem circumference 2270 mm
Front neck to hem 1380 mm
Front waist to hem 1000 mm
Back neck to hem 1390 mm
Back waist to hem 1050 mm
Sleeve length 700 mm
Neck to sleeve head 30 mm
Cross back 360 mm
Underarm to underarm 300 mm
Convert to inches

Additional material

Articles, publications, diagrams and receipts descriptions

National Museum of Australia

National Museum of Australia online collection record

Friends Magazine article: 'Springfield settles', in Volume 17, No 3, September 2006

National Museum of Australia Education Classroom resources, Investigating pastoral settlement in Australia in the nineteenth century by analysing the National Museum of Australia's Settlers and Settling In exhibit

Other related objects

The dress was acquired by the National Museum of Australia as part of the Faithfull family and Springfield Merino Stud collections in November 2004. The dress forms part of a collection that includes costume dating from 1750 to 1970 and material relating to the history of wool-growing, sporting memorabilia, domestic items, children's toys, decorative arts and associated photographs and other ephemera. This collection was gathered by the Faithfull and Maple-Brown families for over 170 years, and not only reflects the development the wool-growing industry, but illuminates daily life during the early settlement of rural Australia.

Link to collection online


Insect damage

Minor evidence of insect infestation in the past in the form of grazing and small holes.


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


  1. Discolouration
  2. Holes
  3. Stained
  4. Torn
  5. Worn
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