Australian dress register ID:509
Owner:Walcha and District Historical Society
Date range:1845 - 1850
Place of origin:Walcha Road, New South Wales, Australia
It is not possible to find the original wearer or wearers of this dress. It is significant both because of the exceptional quality of the fabric, and its excellent condition despite being at least 150 years old. It is also an example of the large 'bell-shaped' skirts fashionable from 1840-1865. After Miss Jean Crawford died (1892-1978), this garment was donated to the Walcha Historical Society by her niece in Armidale, NSW, in 1979. Jean was born at "Yarooga", Walcha Road, NSW and in later years lived in Walcha where she died. There were no more details listed in the acquisition book (Book 6, no. 585) except for a description of the dress.
Jean Crawford was the daughter of Thomas Crawford and Marion Galbraith Mitchell (1860-1946) who were married in Walcha on 10 December 1879. There are few details of her parents, but her maternal grandfather was Alexander Mitchell (1828-1901), who was well known in the Walcha/Uralla/Armidale area as a builder.
Marion Galbraith Crawford was born after the possible dates of the dress of 1845 to 1850. There is no information of her mother or of her husband's mother, who may have been supposed to have been of the correct ages for the dress. There is no information previous to these dates in the Walcha archives.
Jean's sister Catherine married in 1913, James Ramsay Munro "Sunny Jim" MacKay, a well known cricketer of the era. Her niece in Armidale, Catherine Joan 'Joan' Walker, possibly the same who donated the above dress but not confirmed, donated in September 2012, also to the Walcha Historical Soc, a box of undergarments and linen which had belonged to Catherine Crawford at the time of her marriage, which Joan had had in her possession for many years. These garments are in relativley sound condition. It is only very recently that these tenuous connections have been made. Author: Truda Newman, 21/11/2013.
This dress is in excellent condition and entirely hand stitched. It has a long sleeved bodice fastening at the front with attractive glass buttons. The bodice is trimmed with vertical bands of velvet ribbon. The skirt is full and would probably have had a second layer beneath it. The elaborate brocade is very fine and richly coloured and is at its most dense patterning around the hem. At first thought to be for a 12-14 year old child, the dress is now considered to be for a small adult. It appears to be missing a lower skirt tier which makes sense of the long sleeve and strange proportion. The dress is crinoline style and would have been worn with full petticoats. It is thought to have been altered at least 3 times - 1. the bodice was let out at the waist with triangular shaped sections; 2. the waist length was dropped; 3. the full skirt was lengthened by inserting plain silk at the back.
History and Provenance
Origninally owned by Miss Jean Crawford; on her death it passed into the possession of her niece who donated it to the Walcha Historical Society. Jean Crawford was the daughter of Thomas Crawford and Marion Galbraith Mitchell (1860-1946), who were married in Walcha on 10 December 1879. There are few other details of her parents' life, but her maternal grandfather was Alexander Mitchell (1828-1901) was well known in the Walcha/Uralla/Armidale area as a builder.
Jean's sister Catherine married in 1913, James Ramsay Munro "Sunny Jim" MacKay, a well known cricketer of the era. Her niece in Armidale, Catherine Joan Walker, possibly the same niece who donated the dress - though this has not been confirmed. However she did donate a box of undergarments to the Walcha Historical Society in September 2012; these also belonged to Catherine Crawford.
Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information
Original owners are unknown. Donor Jean Crawford was born in 1892 at 'Yarooga', Walcha Road, NSW; she later moved to Walcha where she died in 1978.
Where did this information come from?
Details of the acquisition from the records belonging to the Walcha & District Hisorical Society, Inc. Book No. 6, page no. 585, and Miss A Norton's alphabtical listing from her exercise book.
Place of origin:
Walcha Road, New South Wales, Australia
Owned by Miss Jean Crawford, of "Yarooga", Walcha Road, NSW and Walcha, NSW. Walcha Road is a small rural village located 19 kilometres west of Walcha in the Northern tablelands of New South Wales. The dress was donated by Miss Crawford's niece, of Armidale, NSW. The wearer or wearers are unknown.
Worn by more than one person and altered at least 3 times.
Entirely hand sewn. Dressmaker unknown.
Trimmings / Decoration
6 vertical bands of velvet ribbon on front bodice extending from waist; 2 bands on sleeve, at sleeve head and above cuff.
Piping on outside sleeve to strengthen seams.
The bobbin lace collar has been misplaced.
Fibre / Weave
This dress is made of topaz silk, with brocade on the bottom half of the heavily box-pleated skirt, with hidden right hand side pocket within a pleat. Sleeves and bodice lined. Closure neck to waist, decorated with 9 small glass (possibley Murano glass) buttons, metal hooks and worked eylets to match. Metal hook and worked eye waist fastening with 6mm overlap at front. Skirt made of 7 panels of selvedged fabric 540 mm wide.
- Natural dye
- Synthetic dye
Skirt made with seven widths of possible French or German fabric; fitted bodice with two-piece shaped long sleeves, bodice and sleeves and lined.
Worn by more than one person and altered at least 3 times. Bodice let out at waist with triangular shaped sections. Waist length dropped.
- Hand sewn
- Machine sewn
Metal hooks and eyes, fastening at dress centre front and around waist. Nine small buttons, non-functioning, glass, possibly Murano, on gilt bases attached to front bodice. Hook and eyelet fastening at sleeve cuff.
- Hook and eye
|Hem circumference||2280 mm|
|Front neck to hem||900 mm|
|Front waist to hem||580 mm|
|Back neck to hem||1080 mm|
|Back waist to hem||700 mm|
|Sleeve length||570 mm|
|Neck to sleeve head||180 mm|
|Cross back||320 mm|
|Underarm to underarm||400 mm|
|Fabric width||540 mm|
|Convert to inches|
Selvedges intact on each of the 7 widths in the skirt.
Due to quality of the fabric used (silk brocade) as well as the extent of decoration on the dress.
Articles, publications, diagrams and receipts descriptions
Dresses of Similar style, in other museums
Dress (1858-1860) T.702-1913 <http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O34681/dress-unknown/>
Dress (1855-1857) T.324 to B-1977 <http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O122386/day-dress-unknown/>
Dress (1864) C.I.40.183.2 <http://www.metmuseum.org/collections/search-the-collections/91019?img=0>
Dress (1859) C.I.50.61a, b <http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/90875?rpp=60&pg=10&ao=on&ft=dress&when=A.D.+1800-1900&what=Dresses&pos=590>
Evening Dress (1856-1858) C.I.60.26.2a, b <http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/82157?rpp=60&pg=4&ao=on&ft=dress&when=A.D.+1800-1900&what=Dresses&pos=206>
Dress (1840) C.I.38.23.17 <http://www.metmuseum.org/Collections/search-the-collections/82321?rpp=60&pg=8&ao=on&ft=dress&when=A.D.+1800-1900&what=Dresses&pos=461>
Dress (1857-1859) C.I.41.21.5a, b <http://www.metmuseum.org/collections/search-the-collections/84367?rpp=60&pg=9&ao=on&ft=dress&when=A.D.+1800-1900&what=Dresses&img=1>
Dress (1869) 2002.383a, b <http://www.metmuseum.org/collections/search-the-collections/86573?rpp=60&pg=10&ao=on&ft=dress&when=A.D.+1800-1900&what=Dresses&img=1>
Evidence of repairs
Possibly altered at least 3 times. Bodice let out at waist with triangular shaped sections. Full skirt lengthened by inserting plain silk at back. Some underarm discolouration and other patches on skirt.