Florence Porter's Wedding Dress

Contributed by: Miss Porter's House National Trust Newcastle

Florence Porter in formal dress Wedding dress front view Wedding dress side view Wedding dress back view Front view inside bodice Stockings worn with wedding dress Reticule (handbag) Wedding decoration Marriage Certificate Florence Jolley -  Herbert Porter, 1910, P. 1 Marriage Certificate Florence Jolley  - Herbert Porter, 1910, p.2 Postcard from Florence Jolley to Herbert Porter, 1906 Postcard from Florence Jolley to Herbert Portrer, 1906 Birthday card from Florence Jolley to Herbert Porter, 1908 Birthday postcard from Florence Jolley to Herbert Porter, 1908
  • Australian dress register ID:

  • Owner:

    Miss Porter's House National Trust Newcastle
  • Owner registration number:

    43363 (Miss Porter's House Collection Accession number)
  • Date range:

    1909 - 1910
  • Place of origin:

    Singleton, New South Wales, Australia
  • Gender:

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Object information

Significance statement

Florence Porter’s wedding dress is one of the most significant items in the collection at Miss Potter’s House as it marks the marriage of Florence and Herbert as the familial start point of the House and its people. Because there are exact details of the item’s authenticity it is a good example of a wedding garment of the times. Florence and Herbert Porter were married on 12 January 1910 at All Saints Church, Singleton and lived at 434 King St Newcastle for the rest of their lives. Herbert died in the Spanish flu in 11th April 1919, aged 44; Florence died 17th August 1970 aged 91.

Florence was survived by their two daughters, Hazel and Ella, who lived in the house for the rest of their lives. The house designed by Wallace Porter, a significant architect of Newcastle and surrounds, and brother of Herbert. The house survived the 5.6 Richter scale Newcastle earthquake of 1989, which was one of Australia’s most significant natural disasters.

This object is of historic significance in that it is associated with the Porter family, particularly Florence Porter, and reflects a component of the pattern of life lived by the family. The Porter women devoted considerable time to the production of both functional and aesthetic textile items. The object is well crafted and while the design may not be original it is indicative of the style of household crafts of the twentieth century. The research significance of the object rests with its placement within a large collection of hand crafted objects in the Miss Porter’s House collection. Additionally, there is an extensive document collection that includes: postcards and greeting/courting cards between Herbert and Florence; journals of travel, interests and household expenditure (both collections are accessible through ehive.com. The social significance of this object as part of a large collection is that it provides an insight into the life and skills of the Porter women as the objects in the collection are publicly displayed to groups such as school children and social historians.

Author: Pam Marley & Marion Bannister and volunteer team, Miss Porter's House, Newcastle, March, 2019.


Wedding dress, comprising of a skirt and bodice in white voile and lace, being Edwardian with 'leg of mutton' sleeves and decorative pintucking in bands and fine lace inserts along the sleeve to the cuff; there are two hooks and eyes on each cuff. There is white lawn lining attached to the side seams, armholes, inside of the strap, shoulders and sleeves. The bodice has a wide panel of Broderie Anglaise with a frill from the front to the back over the shoulders, the frill forming an oversleeve section. There is a fine lace panel with fine vertical pintucking under the bust in the front. The back mirrors the front but includes the fastenings: seven pearl cream buttons down the back and on the collar there are three hook and eye fasteners. This fine lace is repeated in a stand up collar and frill. The bodice has a matching gored skirt with gathering at the back and a panel at the front with inserts, horizontally, alternating fine lace and seven rows of pintucking in bands; there are two vertical rows of fine lace on either side of the panel. At the bottom of the skirt all the way around, on either side of the panel are two horizontal pleats, above this are inserts of fine lace and pintucking that matches the front panel. There are two buttons on the placket to fasten the skirt at the waist. On an accompanying card is noted that the top of the petticoat was used to make babies' dresses.

History and Provenance

Florence Porter lived at Oban Vale, Singleton and was married in All Saints Church, Singleton to Herbert Porter, who had a carrying business in Newcastle.

The newlyweds Herbert and Florence Jolley (aged 30) moved into their new home at 434 King Street, Newcastle in 1910. The house faced Langford Street, now King Street and behind it in nearby Blaine (now Hunter) Street was the family general store and carrier business. The couple had two daughters: Ella, born in 1911 and Hazel, born in 1914. Sadly, Herbert (and his mother) fell victim to the influenza epidemic in 1919, and Florence was left to raise the two girls. The three women lived in the House together. Florence died 17 August 1970.

Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information

Marriage: Herbert Porter to Florence Evelyn Jolley 12 January 1910

Birth: Florence Evelyn Porter (nee Jolley), 16th August 1879

Birth: Herbert Porter, 26th November 2877

Birth: Ella Baldwin Porter, 7th February 1911

Birth: Hazel Mildred Porter, 2nd August 1914

Death: Florence Evelyn Porter (nee Jolley),17 August 1970

Death: Herbert Porter, 11 April 1919

Death: Hazel Mildred Porter, 7th November 1997

Death: Ella Baldwin Porter, 5th June 1995

Do you have any stories or community information associated with this?

Miss Porter’s House is a living home and for most of its habitation was the home to three women.  The house offers a rare and privileged visit into other lives and times of the 20th Century. Designed by prominent architect Wallace Porter, brother to Herbert, the house was built in 1909 by Herbert Porter. The terrace style house was home to the Porter family until 1997, which was then left to the National Trust by Miss Hazel Porter with its contents intact. The house provides visitors with a vivid experience of early to mid-twentieth century inner-city life in Newcastle. Miss Porter’s House is filled with 1909-1990s furnishings and personal items which tell the story of the family over more than a century.  The collection includes hundreds of hand-worked (knitted, crochet, embroidered, sewn) garments and manchester made by the women. The very finest of work is attributed to Florence (including hand made lace, tatting, crocheting and embroidery). A subset of the work (27 items) was housed at the Embroiderer’s guild (Newcastle) historic collection but has since been integrated into the MPH collection. It is understood that this part of the collection is Florence’s work eg christening, baby’s garments, laces.

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

When Florence and Herbert married in 1910, they moved into Newcastle West which was changing from coal mining to retail and light industry. Income came from Herbert’s father’s general store/grocerybusiness, selling fresh food and staples such as stove black, candles, rolled oats and flour by the bag. Herbert also worked as a carrier, delivering coal which was the main heating for homes. The stables for the six or so horses were located between the family business and Porter home.

Herbert and his mother died in 1919 from the Spanish influenza which swept much of the world after World War I. Australia, relatively isolated from the rest of the world, and given more warning to institute public health measures, did not suffer the same mortality figures, but was still impacted. Deaths in Newcastle were probably around 500.

Florence and her girls were left with no income, in a time when there was little social security. A share in the sale of the family business gave the widow some security, until Ella and Hazel were old enough to work, which they did most of their lives as secretaries and in retail.

The wedding gown was treasured by all three women, as a symbol of the 10-year marriage and a connection to the girls' father. Like many gowns of the time, it was fairly modest and made of voile rather than silk or luxury fabrics, fabrics which few farmers (Florence’s parents) and working people could afford, or would think appropriate.

The modesty of the material was made up for by the quality and skill of the needlework. The early 20th century was a time when few working/middle-class women could or would buy off the peg garments. Girls were expected to be skilled in the domestic arts. Hazel’s school reports indicate that as well as shorthand and typing, she studied cookery, hygiene, home management, art and home decoration and needlework. These would all equip women to be a successful house manager, mother and wife.

Ella and Hazel never married (unusual for the time), but they and their mother did continue to win prizes for their needlework in local shows and decorate their home with homemade household textiles. Indicative of the time, few objects were thrown away, and recycling a flour bag into a tea towel, or a wedding petticoat into a christening dress, was the norm.

Where did this information come from?

Marriage certificate, research documents and objects from Miss Porter's House collection, MPH website and research database

This garment has been exhibited

At Miss Porter's House at the Newcastle Embroiders’ guild. At one point the garment was part of a number of items (christening dresses, hand made lace) donated to the Embroiders’ guild but repatriated to MPH in 2014 all probably made by Florence Porter

  1. Place of origin:

    Singleton, New South Wales, Australia

  2. Cost:


  3. Owned by:

    Florence Evelyn Porter (nee Jolley)

  4. Worn by:

    Florence Porter

  5. Occasion(s):

    Wedding, 12 January 1910

  6. Place:

    All Saints Church, Singleton. Bride lived in Oban Vale, Singleton

  7. Designed by:


  8. Made by:

    Possibly Florence Porter (as she was a fine needlewoman); however, anecdotal evidence from current Miss Porter's House  volunteers that receipt from dressmaker in Singleton has been sighted. Current location of document, if indeed it exists, is unknown.

  9. Made for:

    Florence Porter

Trimmings / Decoration

There is a wide panel of Broderie Anglaise with a frill from the front to the back over the shoulders, the frill forming an oversleeve section. There is fine lace in a stand up collar, yoke and frill. The sleeves have alternating bands of fine lace strips and fine pintucks There are vertical pintucks on the bodice. The skirt has a central front panel bordered with vertical fine lace and in horizontal bands there is a combination of strips of fine lace and seven rows of pintucks.  Two wider tucks are above the hem of the skirt.


Broderie Anglaise; fine lace


Pin tucks on skirt, sleeves and bodice. Wider tucks.

Fibre / Weave

The main part of the garment is fine plain weave white voile.

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye


Garment is homemade, with some hand stitching for finishing touches.



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


Straight cut.

  1. Bias
  2. Straight


Bodice fastenings: seven pearl cream buttons down the back and on the collar there are three hook and eye fasteners. Hook and eye on back of lining of bodice. There are two buttons on the placket to fasten the skirt at the waist. 

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

Stiffening / Lining / Padding

The stand up collar has three supporting ribs of whalebone (possibly) to provide stiffening to the collar. Whilst no longer evident, the skirt would have had padding below the back waist to form a bustle.


bodice skirt
Neck 300 mm
Chest 788 mm
Waist 710 mm
Cuff 180 mm
Hem circumference 1140 mm 4581 mm
Front neck to hem 495 mm
Front waist to hem 920 mm
Back neck to hem 440 mm
Back waist to hem 990 mm
Sleeve length 580 mm
Neck to sleeve head 85 mm
Cross back 250 mm
Underarm to underarm 345 mm
Convert to inches

Measurements for the bodice lining below:

Chest: 760 mm

Waist: 635 mm

Hem circumference: 635 mm

Front neck to hem: 190 mm

Back neck to hem: 200 mm

Cross back: 380 mm


Additional material

Articles, publications, diagrams and receipts descriptions

The complete collection of documents and objects from Miss Porters’ House is available on the e-hive website www.ehive.com (enter the number of the item, listed below to find full details and images of each item). Enter the term ‘Herbert Porter’ into ehive to find additional images and information. Miss Porters’ House data is proposed to be transferred to the NSW National Trust from e-hive during 2019.

Link to collection online


Slightly discoloured with age, there is no bustle (padding). On an accompanying card is noted that the top of the petticoat was used to make babies' dresses, which would be in the collection, but which one is not known.


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


  1. Discolouration
  2. Parts missing
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