Cream Silk Wedding Dress With Train & Shoes, worn by Gertrude Fanny Deer, 1927

Contributed by: National Institute of Dramatic Art

Front Dress Front neckline details Belt, buckle, beading and lace details Back View Inside skirt hem Sleeve cuff peak and beading Side/back view of train brocade silver lamé train. Turned up corner is where a spray of orange blossom was originally positioned. Back view of train. Clearly showing the pattern in brocade silver lamé Silver brocade lame shoes, size 4 Side and buckle details of silver brocade lame shoes, size 4 Tears in right sleeve Wedding photo of Percival and Gertrude 1927 Bridal party photo for wedding of Percival and Gertrude Photograph of Gertrude before marriage Original horseshoe with orange blossom and kewpie doll from 1927
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Object information

Significance statement

This wedding dress with train and shoes belonged to Gertrude Fanny Deer, who was from a well off South Australian family. She married Percival John Thorpe 8 June 1927 at Cherry Gardens Methodist Chapel, Adelaide. The wedding dress ensemble was made by Gertrude's friend Maude McAskall. The set was passed onto her daughter June Elizabeth Thorpe, then onto June’s grandaughter Kathleen Szabo who donated it to the NIDA Costume Research Collection.

The wedding dress ensemble is relaxed, yet elegant. The dress was made using machine and hand stitching. The long train and shoes made from silver brocade lamé indicate that she was from a well to do family. The dress shape and style is very typical of the latter half of the 1920s. The bodice is of a tubular shape and the skirt hem reaches just below the knee. This was the first time in history where women’s legs were shown and is a huge contrast to the dresses worn before WW1 and post war dresses of the early 1920s. The skirt fullness has increased from earlier in the period which allows for more movement, and medieval/art nouveau influences can be seen in the headwear and the pointed shape of the sleeve cuff.

The machine made chantilly lace featured at the front of the bodice and skirt is made from rayon, which was used extensively for machine lace in the first half of the 20th century. The term 'rayon' was used for the first time in 1927, replacing the term 'Art Silk'. 'A Dictionary of Lace' by Pat Earnshaw.

Undergarments that could have been worn under such a dress included a brassiere, with panties, and a slip. This is a huge change from the corsets and petticoats that were seen in the 1900s and 1910s.

The long detachable train originally attached to the dress with hand stitching at the shoulders. The train originally featured a spray of wax and fabric orange blossoms. The tradition for orange blossoms came in when Queen Victoria married in 1840 wearing orange blossoms around her head instead of a crown.

The silver brocade lamé shoes have a pointed toe and Mary Jane strap across the instep. The heel height and style of this shoe are very typical of the era. The silver lamé fabric on the shoes has tarnished over time, leaving them appearing a dark grey colour.

Author: Kathleen Szabo, July 2017.


Cream silk georgette wedding dress, with long train and shoes. Worn by Gertrude Fanny Deer for her wedding to Percival John Thorpe 18th June 1927.

Loose fitting bodice with extra length for blousing, square neckline, long sleeves with peak at top wrist, dropped low waist with decorative ruched belt, below knee skirt length. Cream silk habutai lines the bodice and skirt.

The neckline continues down from the shoulders to the centre front waist to create the illusion of a deep V neckline. This opening frames the cream machine made chantilly lace insert that starts at the base of the square neck and reduces at the waist seam, widening again at the hem. The scalloped edge of the lace is used at the neckline and hem as a decorative feature.

The sleeve hem, neckline, and hem of skirt are all finished with a decorative machine zig-zag stitch and two rows of silver seed beads that repeat a floral motif sewn by hand. 

The train originally attached to the dress at the shoulders. It is of a silver lamé brocade, lined with peach silk georgette, the underside is edged with a ruched matching trim with plastic pearl seed beads. The two top corners of the train are folded back to show the peach trim and lining. The bottom left corner of the train is turned back to show a ruched panel of peach georgette. It is secured to the top side of the train where originally a spray of orange blossom was sewn. 

Shoe fabric is a silver brocade lamé with a floral rose and leaf pattern. Mary Jane straps with a metal button closure that is red on the inside and reflects light like a jewel.  Pointed toe, tan leather insole and quarter lining, cream cotton vamp lining, light brown leather sole marked as size 4. Silver brocade lamé covered French Louis XV heels measuring 1¾” high.  

Dress is sewn by machine and hand. 


History and Provenance

Gertrude Fanny Deer was one of 12 children. Her family was well off and originally from the west coast of South Australia, Eyre Peninsula. Her father Rueben Deer was a land speculator. Rueben was an instigator of the dog proof fence that was built in South Australia in the 1880s. It runs through South Australia and becomes the dingo proof fence in Queensland.

Her family moved to Torrensville, an inner city suburb of Adelaide when she was young. Gertrude and Percival met in Adelaide.

The Deer family were apparently the first family in South Australia to own a US made Nash Motor Car. The Nash Car Motors company operated from 1916 to 1937. They used this car to take holidays at Port Adelaide and Victor Harbour, where high society families of Adelaide would holiday.

Gertrude's father sadly died when she was 8 in 1907. 

Gertrude enjoyed tennis and rowing, and often drove the family car as her mother, Fanny Elizabeth did not drive. Before marriage Gertrude studied short hand and type writing at the Muirdens Business College. She never took on any paid work as her mother prefered to keep her close. 

Percival grew up in Kangarilla, South Australia and was one of 13 children. His family was not well off. He worked as a plumber and walked 25km to work each week in Glenelg where he boarded and walked home for the weekend. 

Gertrude's grandmother on her mother's side was apparently the first head mistress of Clarendon Girls School. This is possibly how the Deer family and the Thorpe family first met, unfortunately more information is not known. 

After marriage the couple built a house on Cliff Street in Glenelg, and bought an investment property they leased in St Leonards, also in Adelaide. 

Gertrude and Percival had two children, Donald John Thorpe, and June Elizabeth Thorpe. 


Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information

Gertrude Fanny Deer was born 8 March 1901, at Utera, Eyre Peninsula, South Australia. She passed away 19 January 1974 

Percival John Thorpe (husband) was born 4 April 1900 at Kangarilla, Adelaide. He passed away 13 April 1959

Elizabeth Fanny Beck (Mother) born 19 November 1856, Richmond, South Australia. Died 2 June 1936, South Australia.

Rueben Deer (Father) 4th June 1854 OHalloran Hill, South Australia. Died 25 July 1936, Brooklyn Park, South Australia. 

Elizabeth and Rueben married 11 October 1879, Glanville, South Australia. 

Where did this information come from?

All information and photos have been provided by June Elizabeth Barnett, the daughter of Gertrude Fanny Beck. June was born 6 September 1933. 

  1. Place of origin:

    Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

  2. Owned by:

    Gertrude Fanny Deer

  3. Worn by:

    Gertrude Fanny Deer

  4. Occasion(s):

    Worn by Gertrude Fanny Deer for her wedding to Percival John Thorpe. 

  5. Place:

    Cherry Gardens Methodist Chapel, Adelaide

  6. Made by:

    Maude McAskall.

    Apparently Maude was a friend of Gertrude's who lived in the same suburb of Torrensville in Adelaide. 

  7. Made for:

    Gertrude Fanny Deer

Trimmings / Decoration

A decorative celluloid belt buckle is used to hold a bow in place at the centre of the skirt waistline. Width 40mm, height 60mm, opening 27mmx25mm. It is believed that this belt buckle has yellowed with age from an original cream colour. 

Beading - Two rows of parallell handstitched glass seed beads along neckline and centre front opening, sleeve cuff and hem. Beading sits 4mm in from the finished line and beads sit 3mm apart. Beading runs in a regular pattern. Two parallel rows with 8 beads in between a motif. The motif runs on the second row of beading from the finished edge. The motif is made up of three loops, with approximate 6 beads per loop. The number of beads sewn per loop is not always consistant and varies from 5 to 7 but with 6 being the most common. There are 17 repeats of the beaded pattern from the neck to the waist, and 14 from waist to hem. The silver beads have tarnished over time and have become a dark silver. Family members say that these beads were of a much lighter silver originally and wedding photos support this. 

Plastic seed pearl beads trim the edge of the train with 15mm spacing. 


Rayon Chantilly lace with scallop edge. Scallops are fabric width may have been 50" wide. The scallops repeat in sets of two, 42mm and 28mm wide. There is a floral motif in ovals that run on the outer edge of the lace.

Fibre / Weave

Plain weave silk cream georgette.

Plain weave cream silk habutai. 

Rayon chantilly lace. 

It is not possible to determine whether the dyes used for these fabric are natural or sythetic. 

Train is made from a silver brocade lamé with a continuous swirl pattern. Train is lined and trimmed with a peach silk georgette. 

Shoes are made from a silver brocade lamé with a floral rose and leaf pattern. 

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye


The whole dress including trim has been sewn with a cream 3 ply Z twist silk thread. The train and trim have been sewn in a similar peach colour thread. 

The bodice and skirt side seams, armhole and waist seam have been machine sewn with approximately 14 stitches per inch. The side seams in the bodice and skirt have been finished with french seams. The skirt lining uses the selvedge at the seams which are pressed open. The cream silk georgette french seams measure 4mm in width, and the lining measures 5mm. 

The armhole has a 9mm finished seam. The seam allowance has been turned in on itself and whip stitched to finish. 

The sleeve hem, neckline, and hem of skirt are all finished with a decorative machine zig-zag stitch and two rows of silver seed beads that repeat a floral motif sewn by hand. 

The neck lining edges have been finished with a small 3mm rolled edge by hand. It is attached to the outside of the garment with a running stitch, sitting approximately 3mm below the finished neck edge. The stitching is diguised on the outside of the garment by the beading.    

The bodice lace insert has been mounted onto a piece of cream silk georgette and then sewn onto the lining by hand using a blind stitch. A running stitch 6mm inwards from this edge. To prevent seeing the lining during wear, the lace insert on the right side of the bodice extends 32mm past the finished edge of the main bodice opening and extends 15mm on the left. The scalloped edge of the lace extends past the slightly curved finished edge of the cream silk georgette mounting. The georgette is finished with a with a rolled edge sewn with a blind stich. 

The skirt lace insert has been similarly mounted onto a piece of cream silk georgette with the raw edges turned inwards. It has then been hand sew under the skirt opening with 10mm overlap. It is secured wit a running stitch inline with the beading to disguise the join. The bottom edge of the skirt lace is scalloped and extends over the finished edge of the cream silk georgette mounting. The georgette is finished finished with a rolled edge sewn with a blind stich. 

The linings skirt hem is 35mm deep and is secured with a small whip stich. 

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


All panels are cut on the straight grain. 

The bodice cut is straight and unfittied, with no darts or shaping. 

The bodice length is cut longer than the lining to achieve a blousing effect along the hipline. The extra length allowed for blousing is between 25mm and 30mm. 

The sleeves are cut straight with no fullness at the sleeve head. 

The side seam of the bodice sits approximately 25mm back from the natural unerarm. 

The cream silk georgette skirt is cut in two pieces, with a seam at the right side back.

The cream silk georgette skirt has one join at the back right. The panels measure 840mm and 535mm. 

Front and back lining panels are cut using the full width of the fabric, which is 28"/710mm wide. 

Lace is possibly cut from 40" width of lace. The waist seam is cut with less seam allowance than the georgette and lining pieces which mean these lace panels would just fit into a 40"/1015mm width. A man recently told me in a lace shop that French lace looms in this period were 40" wide, as that is 'the length of a woman'. I could not determine from my research whether this statement is correct.  

The selvedge of the the silver lamé fabric, as well as the peach silk georgette is used as the seam allowance on the width of the train. Fabric width is 34"

  1. Bias
  2. Straight


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


Neck 540 mm
Chest 1100 mm
Waist 1067 mm
Hip 1400 mm
Cuff 210 mm
Hem circumference 1740 mm
Front neck to hem 950 mm
Front waist to hem 485 mm
Back neck to hem 1075 mm
Back waist to hem 500 mm
Sleeve length 563 mm
Neck to sleeve head 140 mm
Cross back 360 mm
Underarm to underarm 510 mm
Convert to inches


Belt width - 100

Belt loop length - 160

Armscye - 475 

Lining fabric width - 28"

Possible width of lace fabric - 40" 

Main garment french seams - 4

Lining french seams - 5

Blousing length - Approx 25

All measurements are taken on the outside of the garmet.


Length - 2290

Width - 845

Fabric width - 34"/865

Trim width - 70

Turnback depth at shoulders 170

Turnback depth at end of train - 380


Length - 230

Widest point - 74

Narrowest point - 34

Heel width - 32

Heel length- 30

Heel hight - 38

Dress Themes

Winter wedding. 

Additional material


There are splits in both sleeves of the dress which has required it being photographed on a flatboard. 

There are also small splits near the base of the left bodice, and the front right hem of the skirt. 

It is most likely these splits were caused by a combination of poor storage and being stored flat.

The seed beads that trim the edge of the cream silk georgette have tarnished and turned quite dark. There only appears to be colour left on the inside of the beads. This may have always been the case. 

A few tacks that were used to keep the bow and belt in place have now come away. Thread is mostly still in the garment. 

The ruched peach silk georgette trim on the silver brocade lamé train has recently been resewn. The ruched trim on the edge has come unstitched in areas. As a result of the trim coming unstitched, the plastic seed pearls sewn along these parts are now missing.

The top edge of the train has the remains of cream 3 ply Z twist tread in two sections. It appears that this was where the train was originally sewn to the shoulders of the dress for the wedding.  

There are a few original feathers and seeds stuck in the train of the skirt from being worn outside. 

The silver brocade lamé used on the shoes has tarnished to a dark grey colour. There are also several dark spots on the silver brocade lamé train. 


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


  1. Torn
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