Australian dress register ID:514
Owner:Gulgong Pioneers Museum
Date range:1880 - 1890
Place of origin:Gulgong, New South Wales, Australia
This is an important example of occupational or travel dress. Unostenatious garments, such as this one, can be overlooked in collections, but this garment is quite rare. Sometimes called a 'duster' they are quite common in American mail order catalogues. They were worn over smart clothes to protect from dust or weather. The fastening right down the front, to the absolute bottom of the hem, suggests the wearer intended to eliminate any speck of dust collecting on her more expensive garments, worn underneath. The drab colour was designed to cater for dust which could be from housework or from riding behind a pony and trap. The drab coloured silk doesn't show the dust and will not absorb it. With a brisk shake, it can be removed. It is a little too early in style (c1880) to be a motoring coat and was probably used in a sulky or carriage. Motoring coats were made in this same tussah silk.
With the new emphasis on travel during the 2nd half of the 19th century, it could have also been purchased for travel further afield - a trip of a lifetime to Egypt. We must not forget that, everywhere you went, dust was more prevalent with unmade roads and open carriages. Living in Gulgong in country New South Wales would also have required long trips to the city to stock up and attend important events. Author: Sue Nicholls, Lindie Ward, 25/6/2014.
Full length button through garment in brownish yellow tussah silk with pleated self frill. Shoulder seam drops forward as in a yoke and is gathered into the neckband and shoulder. Trimmed with pleated self frill around neck and right front and sleeve cuffs. A wide pocket opening provides access to a skirt pocket that would be worn underneath or possibly a chatelaine. Sleeve is two piece. Back has three shaping seams at the centre. Centre back skirt is box pleated from just below the waist and is shaped to fit over the skirt bustle worn underneath.
History and Provenance
How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?
These are commonly advertised in American mail order catalogues.
Place of origin:
Gulgong, New South Wales, Australia
Fibre / Weave
Undyed natural colour - brownish yellow, plain weave slubbed raw silk, typical of tussah.
Tussah (wild) silk is often used in the nineteenth century to cover and protect against dust. Tussah silk is inhospitable to dust mites.
- Natural dye
- Synthetic dye
Probably professionally made, machine stitched except for hand stitched mending in places. Armholes strengthened with piping to prevent tearing.
- Hand sewn
- Machine sewn
Buttons and buttonholes down entire front - possibly early plastic, appear to be original as they have unusual sunk holes for thread.
- Hook and eye
|Hem circumference||720 mm|
|Front neck to hem||1290 mm|
|Back neck to hem||1420 mm|
|Sleeve length||530 mm|
|Neck to sleeve head||150 mm|
|Cross back||370 mm|
|Underarm to underarm||490 mm|
|Convert to inches|
Widest section of fabric is 620 mm
Motoring dust coats of this type were commonly worn once the automobile was in use in Australia (1901 onwards). This dress appears to predate this and may be an example of protective wear for travelling in a buggy or carriage. There is one illustrated in V&A 'Four Hundred Years of Fashion' which it is speculated may have been worn on a trip to Egypt due to the quantities of dust that it shed when cleaned.
Articles, publications, diagrams and receipts descriptions
There is an example of a dust coat (1905-1908) in the Victorian and Albert Collection.
Other related objects
V&A collection T.15&A-1979 from c1894 tussah silk suit
Buttons securlely attached, nothing major wrong with the dress.
Small tear on left front (possible where a broach has been worn to attach a scarf).
Evidence of repairs
Stitches to re-attach frills, few tiny holes