Maternity dress

Contributed by: Riversdale National Trust

Front view Side back Full front Full front showing catalogue number Detail fabric showing carerfully matched seams Inside sleeve lining which prevents  the puff dropping Puffed sleeve on bias Early elastic tie for front panel Showing front construction and hand stitching Showing the inside bodice Front view showing wear at the edge of flap Hem tear
  • Australian dress register ID:

  • Owner:

    Riversdale National Trust
  • Owner registration number:

  • Date range:

    1820 - 1830
  • Place of origin:

    Australia (possibly)
  • Gender:

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Object information

Significance statement

It is a rare example of early nineteenth century dress. The cotton print is vibrant and in very good condition and has been very carefully placed to match on seams and sleeve bands. It is entirely hand stitched. The day dress with its fall front would have facilitated maternity and breast feeding as women were frequently pregant and had many children. This style of dress was very practical and probably the norm rather than the exception at this time.

Its condition is excellent and shows no sign of fading. It has however been worn as the hem as been caught in several places.  Further research into the Twynam family history may improve the provenance of this dress. 

Author: , .


Day dress; Dark Blue, indigo coloured dye, (all dyes of this period are natural dyes) printed cotton with cream/yellow and white floral design; front panel pinned at each side to give a square neckline; high waisted; short puffed sleeves. The whole bodice is lined in thick cotton, right and left fronts tying at the centre front; skirt is long and straightish, two widths of fabric hemmed at the bottom; the skirt is gathered from sides and around the back and has cartridge pleating into the back; all hand stitched; front panel has 9 horizontal tucks. Placket side front to allow the person to get into the garment. Channel in front at top of skirt with ties, holds dress up when tied around inside of dress.

History and Provenance

  1. Place of origin:

    Australia (possibly)

  2. Owned by:

    The history and provenance of the garment is still being researched. . Believed to be owned by the Twynam family. 

Trimmings / Decoration


cream rayon ribbon added later to tie the front underneath the flap; 2 old pieces of rubber elastic indicates the dress is not a reproduction and dates to when patented rubber elastic came in during 1820's


front panel has 9 horizontal tucks

Fibre / Weave

Plain weave printed cotton; exceptional condition for the 1820's, bright, vibrant, fresh colour. The fabric is 600mm width and is thought to be European. 

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye


Fine stitching and strongly stitched; patterns well matched on sleeves and centre back; probably done by and experienced seamstress. Classic style shaping at the back

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


The dress itself is all cut on the straight. The sleeves are cut on the bias giving them softness and fullness.

The V cut in the back of the bodice has structural seams common in the 1800's-1850's. The V comes from the armhole to the centre back waist

  1. Bias
  2. Straight


The elastic ties if original are very early use of elastic which was only patented in 1820. It could possibly have  been added later but does appear to be original.

Elastic to tie front bodice; cotton drawstring around waist. Possibly buttons on the top corners of the fall panel to hold it closed.  

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

Stiffening / Lining / Padding

Lining is in cotton on straight grain firm fabric. Lining in sleeve acts to stop puff in the sleeves flattening when worn.


Neck 920 mm
Chest 780 mm
Waist 700 mm
Cuff 285 mm
Hem circumference 2120 mm
Front neck to hem 1130 mm
Front waist to hem 940 mm
Back neck to hem 1180 mm
Back waist to hem 950 mm
Sleeve length 215 mm
Neck to sleeve head 40 mm
Cross back 260 mm
Underarm to underarm 410 mm
Fabric width 600 mm
Convert to inches

Neck 920mm at its tightest, will increase neck by 80mm for maternity purposes; measurement at its tightest for waist (high waist); 350mm sleeve length of puff cut on the bias gives the sleeve softness. 

Dress Themes

Day dress clearly adapted for use by a pregnant, breast feeding lady.


Evidence of repairs

3 tears on the hem. large tears on right side at the top where bodice and skirt are sewn. Numerous small tears in the skirt. 


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


  1. Holes
  2. Torn
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