Australian dress register ID:556
Owner:The Embroiderers' Guild of WA Inc
Owner registration number:2006/048
Place of origin:Delhi, India
West Australian, Evi Ferrier, is a well known Australian artist specialising in mosaic artwork.
Evi’s special occasion dress brings aesthetic brilliance together with social and economic awareness in a time of boom in the State of Western Australia.
In the late 1970s Evi led a busy life as the wife of a Family Court Judge and mother. Through their daughters, she met Lyn Hughes, who imported top quality special occasion clothing from India.
At this time, Melbourne artist, Bronwyn Baillieu, lived in Delhi and commissioned exquisite embroidery and beadwork on fine silk fabrics. She drew the design onto paper then pricked it onto stretched fabric for a team of four men to embroider. Up to a month could be spent on the embroidery, beading and assembling the garment, mainly by hand. These were then exported.
At last the embroidery skills in India were being utilised for high fashion after a decade of simple “hippie” clothing worn in the 1970s. Indian cotton saris and caftans were popular for summer wear, but were often of inferior fabrics made for cheapness not quality garments. Evi was thrilled with her choice of silk georgette dress with its twenties look - low waist and handkerchief hem.
The 1980s were a time of growth in Western Australia. Gold mining was booming. Business was investing heavily in rebuilding Perth. Brian Burke, Premier of the State from 1983–88, is remembered for two important initiatives: he banned smoking in public places and instigated antismoking advertising. He was also involved in what was remembered as WA Inc, where shady business deals took place.
Then there was the America’s Cup Challenge. In 1983 Alan Bond’s yacht syndicate won the America’s Cup, allowing the next Challenge to take place in Fremantle. The social life for all society’s strata was hectic and opportunities to party were non -stop. Evi’s dress could have graced many social gatherings.
Eventually the dress was retired. However Evi, the artist, recognised the beauty of the dress and for many years it hung in her hallway as a stunning work of art. The weight of embroidery became too great for the silk georgette, and before the dress could disintegrate, it was donated to The Embroiderers’ Guild of W.A. to be conserved, stored and appreciated by generations of embroiderers to come. Author: Gaynor Ashford, additional information from Valerie Cavill, Curator of the “Textile Collection” The Embroiderers’ Guild of WA, September 19th 2014.
This glorious red dress has a plain bodice with round neck and sleeveless in a Habotai silk. The skirt, cape and front drape panel are in a matching silk Georgette. The bodice has a slash opening at centre front, but a bias strip binding around the neck means it cannot be used as neck opening. The same bias strip edging finishes the armholes. From the slightly dropped waist, there is an embroidered double layer band, and from this falls the gathered skirt with handkerchief hem. At the front, attached at the waist band is a floating panel with six floral sprays. At the back a plain panel is attached inside the dress. The dress is most unusual as it has no zip, buttons, fasteners; the fabric has little stretch and it is not cut on the cross.
Attached to the neck edge is a semi-circular cape. Falling over the shoulders and down the back is a plethora of embroidered multi-coloured flowers. birds and beads. From the centre back, hanging on a long cord, is a heavy multicoloured rayon tassel.
History and Provenance
Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information
Evi Ferrier nee Wise was born in Perth in 1944. Her parents immigrated to Perth in 1938 from Germany. She married Serge Ferrier who became a Judge in the Family Court. They had a daughter, Tania, also an artist. Judge Ferrier died in 1996.
Do you have any stories or community information associated with this?
Evi Ferrier is obsessive compulsive about mosaic–making. She has covered the entire exterior of her home, the interior walls, the pool, the table, chairs, mirrors, pot plant holders, wine coolers with mosaic …just as well her dog runs really fast! She is from the Gaudi/gaudy school and believes too much is never enough. It is this passion for covering the world in bits of broken china that she would like to share with the people of the Albany region and beyond. Naturally, this love of mosaics could not be contained within the walls of her home. She has decorated many public works around Perth including the sundial at Cottesloe Beach, a reflection pool at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, a visitors’ bench at Acacia Prison and water fountains at Perth Zoo. Evi strongly believes everyone has an innate creativity; her role is to help people tap into theirs.
Albany Summer School Programme 2014
this information is taken from just one of several community projects to which Evi contributes.
Where did this information come from?
Information collated by Valerie Cavill (Curator of the Textile Collection, The Embroiderers' Guild of WA) at the time of the donation.
This garment has been exhibited
This dress was briefly on display at The Embroiderers' Guild of WA headquarters in Alfred Cove as part of a "Textile Disaster" exhibition, showing how insects, light, bacteria and loose dyes can spoil items of beauty. It was then carefully boxed for storage.
Place of origin:
approximately $500 to purchase the dress in 1980
Evi wore the dress to various and many special occasions including a Law Society Ball, and a wedding.
Perth, Western Australia
export to Australia and overseas
Trimmings / Decoration
The cape is embroidered with a myriad of leaves and flowers, mainly camellias and small daisies, two white birds, three semicircles, some geometric laidwork with beading at the crosspoints. The border and some areas of filling are triangles, a geometric shape found often in Art Deco design and some stylistic filling that is undoubtedly Indian in theme. The colours are shades of pink and blue/green.
The hip band has the same satin stitch triangles in a parallel linear pattern. The hem uses the same triangular motif repeated.
The floating front panel has scattering of camellias.
The embroidery, worked in silk floss, is mainly satin stitch together with some button hole, laidwork and beading. It is in the beauty of the quality and quantity of the embroidery that is the uniqueness of the dress.
Fibre / Weave
The bodice is made from China or Habotai silk. It has a plain weave. It is not an easy fabric to work with as it slips away from the scissors during cutting, and frays easily. All other parts are made from georgette which is a sheer crepe silk, slightly heavier than chiffon. It too frays easily, and slips when cutting. The fabric would have been stretched in a frame for the pattern to be transferred and stitched before being cut,
- Natural dye
- Synthetic dye
All seams are French, hems are embroidered.
Bronwyn Baillieu, a Textile Artist, was based in Delhi during the 1980s. She designed individual dresses and the embroiderd detail. She would draw the design to be embroidererd onto paper, this would be transferred to the fabric by pin pricking and chalk. She employed a team of usually four male embroiderers who she would oversee. A high standard was expected.
This particular dress came from a range inspired by the 1920s.
The label inside the neck reads, "HANDLOOM pure silk Made in India"
Inside the hip band, machine embroidered, is Bronwyn Baillieu's own logo of two capital Bs, one reversed.
- Hand sewn
- Machine sewn
|Hem circumference||2050 mm|
|Front neck to hem||1270 mm|
|Front waist to hem||780 mm|
|Back neck to hem||1290 mm|
|Back waist to hem||780 mm|
|Neck to sleeve head||80 mm|
|Underarm to underarm||450 mm|
|Convert to inches|
dropped waist band - 120mm deep
front floating panel - 780mm long by 950mm wide
cape - neck edge 460mm, hem edge 2280mm, depth at centre back 440mm
tassel - 660mm
front slit - 130mm
When the dress was retired from wear, it was hung in Evi's entrance hall as a work of art. It was not framed or protected in any way from the elements. It was inevitable in the climate of Western Australia that the dress would suffer from insect damage and general household dust. The biggest danger to the dress however was gravity. The weight of the embroidery has made the front floating panel drop. The cape has come away from the neckline of the bodice, dragged down by the weight of the complex embroidery and the tassel. The silk is so fragile that to even take it from its box for photographing caused more damage to occur. It is unlikely that the dress will ever go on exhibition except in its storage box, where it is stored back uppermost.
During its time hanging in Evi's hall the dress was under attack by insects.