Ellen Drew's wedding dress

Contributed by: Pioneer Women's Hut Tumbarumba

Front view Ellen Drew's Wedding Outfit Back view of Ellen's Wedding Outfit Side view of Ellen Drew's Wedding Outfit Close-up back view (Note: puckering at back possibly for bustle). Inside bodice, notice whale bone inserts. Close up of sleeve cuff on bodice Note: button holes once used before alterations during the life of the outfit.
  • Australian dress register ID:

  • Owner:

    Pioneer Women's Hut Tumbarumba
  • Owner registration number:

    1844 A (bodice) 1844 B (skirt)
  • Date range:

  • Place of origin:

    Mudgee, New South Wales, Australia
  • Gender:

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Object information

Significance statement

This is the wedding dress of Ellen Mary Bax (nee Drew) when she married Ernest Stephen Bax at the Primitive Methodist church, Mudgee in 1892. A tiny woman, she continued to wear the dress many, many times, most probably as her 'Sunday best'. Made from a strong and expensive fabric, it was very well used. The outfit was well made by a dress maker with a number of alterations over the years, converting the garment from a formal dress to an everyday garment. The colour was very servicable. It is indicative of the practice among most married women of the times; how important it was to look smart but also be economical by converting old dresses for new purposes. This garment was probably not worn in Tumbarumba but was brought to the area by her family when they moved from the Mudgee area, as a treasured family object. Ellen Bax's family is intimately intertwined with the history of Tumbarumba. Linden Roth (Ellen's son-in-law) was a prominant member of Tumbarumba council and a portion of road was named after him - 'Linden Roth Drive'.

Author: Glenys Hawkins on behalf of The Pioneer Women's Hut Tumbarumba, 2.10.13.


The bodice is taupe coloured fine silk and cotton fabric, fastened at the front with nine brass hooks and corresponding handworked eyes. The front and the stand collar are decorated with a green pin tucked cotton fabric which has deteriorated. It has a full length two piece sleeve with a raised shoulder head and four tucks on the ellbow. Hand finished seams suggest it could have been made by Ellen Drew or a member of the family. The sleeve cuff is pointed and edged with cord. The back is cut in six panel pieces. The whole top is very fitted. The inside was stiffened with six whalebone pieces with four protruding at ends and two missing altogether. Centre back has a waist band which keeps backof bodice in position. Collar was modified at some time as originally there were ten buttons, the button holes still exist. There remains evidence of the ribbon which would had supported the buttons.

Six shaped panels in the skirt hemmed with biased strip.  

Hook on back of bodice and corresponding loop on back of the skirt.

History and Provenance

Ellen and Ernest had a daughter named Irma who married Linden George Adam Roth in Mudgee in 1922. Linden was the son of George Roth and Mary Wirth. This marriage brought together an Irish family and a German family. Irma and Linden moved to Tumbarumba in about 1928 and bought a shop on the corner of Bridge Street and The Parade. During the Great Depression, several members of the Bax and Roth family also moved in with the family, as Linden could offer them work. Irma and Linden's first house in Tumbarumba was on the high side of Gilbert Street almost opposite Selwyn Street.

Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information

Ellen Bax was born Mary Helena Drew on the 17th March, 1870 at Cunningham's Creek, Count Roxburgh, Ilford (other records show it was at Round Swamp, Capertee). Her father was James Drew, aged 30 years, a groom for Cobb and Co, born Sydney. Her mother was Helen Maher, aged 20 years, born Windsor. Her parents were married 25th August 1867 in Sydney. Ellen married Ernest Stephen Bax on the 23rd May 1892, at the Primitive Methodist Church in Mudgee. Ernest's occupation was a compositor. Mary Ellen's occupation was domestic help. At the time of Ellen's birth, her parents were stationed at the Cobb and Co staging post in the locality now known as Round Swamp. Ellen died in 1945 in Sydney and Ernest died shortly after in Tumbarumba.

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

With the growth of the railway system, the coach lines ceased to exist and the Drew family returned to the Mudgee district where they took up a small farm on the hills overlooking the Cudgegong Valley. There was quite a strong group of people of Irish descent in the district, most of them small farmers trying to eke out an existence on the rocky hills. There were several members of James Drew's family in the area. There is a Drew's Lane that crosses the hills between Eurunderee and that well known hotel which was the site of Henry Lawson's story about "The Loaded Dog".

Where did this information come from?

Grand daughter June Jaggers (nee Roth).

  1. Place of origin:

    Mudgee, New South Wales, Australia

  2. Worn by:

    This outfit was worn by Ellen Bax (Nee Drew) for her marriage to Ernest Stephen Bax, 23rd May 1892.

  3. Place:

    Place of marriage was the Primitive Methodist church in Mudgee, NSW.

  4. Made for:

    Ellen Box (nee Drew)

Trimmings / Decoration


Ribbon attaching 10 buttons to the collar (buttons have since been removed)


Piping along the cuffs made from cord.


Tucking on the sleeves: around the shoulders and inside the elbows. The fabric of the skirt has been gathered behind the hips.

Fibre / Weave

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye


Seams have been finished by hand. Suggests that the dress was home-made. Hook and eye fastenings have also been attached by hand.


Parts of the dress have been altered. Originally there were 10 buttons arranged around the collar which have since been removed. The corresponding button holes can still be seen on the dress.

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


  1. Bias
  2. Straight


Nine brass hook and eye fastenings are attached along the front of the dress. There were also ten buttons arranged along the collar, which have since been removed.

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

Stiffening / Lining / Padding

The bodice of the dress is cut into six panels at the back. Each panel has been stiffened with whalebone pieces. Two panels are missing. Dress has been lined with what appears to be purple cordouroy.


bodice skirt
Chest 800 mm
Waist 510 mm
Cuff 180 mm
Hem circumference 3040 mm
Front neck to hem 320 mm
Front waist to hem 960 mm
Back neck to hem 360 mm
Back waist to hem 1000 mm
Sleeve length 590 mm
Cross back 230 mm
Convert to inches

Dress Themes

Though the dress was originally worn as a wedding dress, it was designed to resemble a day dress; which could be repurposed as her 'Sunday Best' dress; worn for attendence at church and other important occassions. This was common practice during the 19th century among the majority of married women. They could not afford to spend so much money, time and effort on a dress that would be worn once.



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


  1. Discolouration
  2. Fading
  3. Worn
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