Wedding outfit of skirt, chemisette and bodice of white satin-striped cotton lawn with lace.

Contributed by: Private collectors

Elsie Reeve wedding dress 1908 Skirt back -9 panels Bodice front detail Bodice front net lace middle Bodice back neck Bodice shoulder lace Bodice front unusual opening Bodice front eyes Chemisette drawstring front and diagonal panels Elsie Haynes (Reeves) in 1902-6, prior to her wedding in 1908. Elsie Haynes 1913-15, several years after her wedding. Jacquie Haynes, Elsie's granddaughter, aged 12 in 1981. She is wearing a similar skirt and chemisette. Linen handkerchief with crocheted edges Crocheted reticule with initials Recticule closeup with roses and wattle
  • Australian dress register ID:

  • Owner:

    Private collectors
  • Owner registration number:

  • Date range:

  • Place of origin:

    Hawkesburn (near Toorak, Melbourne), VIC, Australia
  • Gender:

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Object information

Significance statement

This wedding dress was worn by a bride from a modest but respected middle-class family in 1908, the period between Federation and World War 1. It provides insight into aspects of the newly Federated Australia, when the young nation was emerging from the traditional ways of England and beginning to forge its own identity. Adaptation to Australian conditions is reflected in use of light-weight white cotton satin-striped lawn fabric in the dress rather than silk-satin or taffeta which were commonly used in England. The dress comprises 3 pieces – a chemisette undergarment, a bodice, and a skirt. The skirt is gathered onto a waistband that is not stiffened and is connected by hooks and eyes, a form of connection primarily used from 1900-1910. The dress has beautiful bobbin lace as a panel on the skirt, on the bodice and down the long sleeves. In addition, it has net lace decoration on the bodice. It is highly unusal for its time as it was about 15 years of out date and leaves us wondering why a middle class bride would have worn an old fashioned dress. 

The dress appears to be home-made rather than purchased or made by a dress-maker. There is some simple hand embroidery on the under-garment made of stem-stitch and chain stitch. This seems to be of a type and standard that any lady of the day could do. 

The item is extremely well provenanced. The current owner, Peter Haynes, is the grandson of the bride. He knew his grandmother well when she was in her 50s and remarried. The whole family are “collectors” and would never throw anything out. Peter’s father was a collector of shells. Peter’s mother was a collector of trinkets, paintings, crockery and small objects d’art. Peter is a collector of stamps and a member of the NSW Philatelic Association. Despite the dress being over 111 years old, it has only been through 3 sets of hands, as the family members live long. However, even with this excellent provenance, we do not know why the bride wore an old fashioned dress when most middle class Australian brides kept up with contemporary fashion.

Author: Margaret Haynes, 14/09/2019.


Wedding outfit of skirt, chemisette and bodice of white satin-striped cotton lawn with lace.

Accesssorised with a crocheted cotton reticule with crocheted-edge lawn handkerchief.

The garment has the profile of the late Victorian period. The blouse has a high stiffened lace collar and long full sleeves. The skirt has a flat front and increasing fullness around the back. It would have been worn with a bustle pad and long white petticoat. The skirt is beautifully cut in 9 gores and gathered into a waistband. The skirt is elongated into an oval train of perhaps 1.2 metres at the back.

The chemisette has lovely lace trim on the shoulders and some simple white hand embroidery of leaves and flowers in stem stitch and chain stitch. It is made of sections of fabric stitched together with flat seams. The seams provide some decoration. The back has a square neckline and the garment is not fastened at the front. Perhaps on the day it would have been fastened with either straight pins or safety pins. The chemisette comes to the waist only and does up with a simple cotton draw string. There is some narrow lace inset between the sections of fabric making up this garment. This garment would have been worn under a corset of probably an S shape.

History and Provenance

Elsie’s mother was Mary Watt Reeve neé Hodgson. Elsie’s father was William Mark Reeve, a public servant and officer in the Victorian army. The army was a volunteer force at that time. Each state had its own army. Peter Haynes, Elsie's grandson, inherited Mark Reeve's ceremonial sword and medals. Elsie’s parents were a respected couple and were invited to the opening of the first parliament of Australia on 9th May 1901 in Melbourne. 

Henry's father, Robert was born in Leek in Staffordshire England. He came to Melbourne on the ‘Marco Polo’ in 1863 and shortly after in July 1869 married Margaret Lauder Watson from Paisley, Glasgow, Scotland. Robert Haynes died at 58 years of age in the workhouse in Leek in 1902, after returning to England and leaving his wife and children in Melbourne. He died of a disease of the spinal cord and exhaustion. Not such a bright star on the family tree! Henry was the oldest of 9 children from the marriage of Robert and Margaret Haynes, eight of whom survived to adulthood.

It is a tribute to Henry’s diligence that he was able to gain educational qualifications in accountancy and marry into the middle class despite his modest family circumstances. 

Elsie and Henry were married by Elsie’s relative the Rev Albert Arthur Wiltshire. He was the husband of a cousin on Elsie’s mother’s side. This honourable minister, then the resident cleric at St. Paul's Church of England at Euroa, Victoria, was to pass away in tragic circumstances a few months later. He died from a fall encountered while he was trying to get a good photo of Charman’s Falls, east of Euroa in the Strathbogie Ranges in Victoria. He left a 17 year old son Aubrey, another son and wife Sarah neé Hodgson behind.

This was Henry’s second marriage. His first marriage to Hilda Louisa Palmer ending in 1906 with Hilda’s death, saw the birth of one child, Norman Herbert Haynes. Norman was a good-looking lad who took to the land jackarooing and died early following an accident in the bush. Norman had no issue.

Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information

Elsie Harriet (née Reeve) Haynes (09/12/1882 –03/07/1970)

Marriage to Henry Hamilton Haynes (05/05/1870 – 06/12/1929). Henry was an accountant, 38 years of age and a widower.

Henry’s father was Robert Haynes (18/03/1844 - 1902), a warehouseman.

Henry and Elsie had two sons – William Mark (known as Mark) Hamilton Haynes (23/09/1909 – 1/08/1999) and Robert (Bob) Hamilton Haynes (02/10/1913 - 01/11/1999). Their father Henry sent both boys to Melbourne Grammar School.

Henry died prior to Elsie in the Depression. Elsie remarried (2/07/1938) at the age of 53 to William (Bill) Hall-Groves, a divorcee, and salesman for a company called Kimptons - makers of Barastock, an animal food. There was no further issue from this marriage. 

Mark never married and had no issue. Bob valued education like his father and also sent his one son Peter to Melbourne Grammar school. Peter became a pharmacist by trade and a golfer as a hobby. Robert Haynes became a bank manager (E S & A), married Nancy Ola Worland (11/10/1913-25/09/2015) in 10/08/1940 and sired only Peter Hamilton Haynes (29/05/1941 - ) born 9 months later.

Peter Haynes, a pharmacist & golfer, married Virginia Mary Dower in 17/04/1967 and sired Jacqueline Mary Haynes (13/01/1970 - ) and Richard Hamilton Haynes (09/04/1975 - ). The dress was passed down by Elsie to her daughter-in-law Nancy Ola Haynes. Nancy passed it on to her son Peter and his wife Virginia on her death at nearly 102 years of age.

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

After Henry's death during the Depression, Elsie remarried (02/07/1938) at the age of 53 to William (Bill) Hall-Groves, a divorcee, and salesman for a company called Kimptons - makers of Barastock, an animal food.  The couple lived in a top floor rented flat in 15 Moorhouse St, Armadale, Melbourne. Elsie’s youngest son, Bob Haynes, then aged 25, did not much like his new step father, but his son Peter remembers going to their house in school holidays when he was 10-12 years old. He accompanied “Old Bill” or “Grandpa Bill” on his sales trips to the Yarra Valley and the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria. His grandmother Elsie, whom he called “Mardi” would often accompany them. 

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

The wedding took place before WWI, after Federation of Australia, following the first parliament of Australia on 9th May 1901 in Melbourne. The bride's parents attended this opening.

Prior to Federation, the six States of Australia (New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia) were individual self-governing British colonies. Upon Federation, these colonies joined together and became The Commonwealth of Australia, governed by the Federal Government. Sydney, the first white settlement in Australia and Melbourne vied for the honour of becoming the new National Capital, a rivalry that was resolved by the decision to build a new National Capital in Canberra, located between the rival cities. The Australian Parliament sat in Melbourne, Victoria until 1927 when it was transferred to Canberra.

Melbourne’s prestige was initiated by the Gold Rush of the 1850s, one of the largest in the history of the world. It saw rapid population growth in Victoria and brought wealth, impressive private and public architecture and as a sense of civic pride to Melbourne. The city had earned the title, “Marvellous Melbourne” by the 1880s and was so prestigious that it hosted the 1880 World’s Fair. By the time of Federation, Melbourne was a substantial city of about 1 million, rivalling Sydney in terms of population, culture and wealth.

Information on Melbourne at the turn of the century from: 

Where did this information come from?

Margaret Haynes, Peter Haynes, Amy Knott - historical dress design student. 

1. “The Argus” Victoria, Saturday 10th October 1908.

2. “Hobart Mercury” 24th July, 1940 notification re. his son Aubrey Ray Wiltshire.

This garment has been exhibited

Not previously exhibited.

  1. Place of origin:

    Hawkesburn (near Toorak, Melbourne), VIC, Australia

  2. Cost:


  3. Owned by:

    Elsie Harriet (née Reeve) Haynes (9/12/1882 –3/7/1970).

    Married at  St Martin’s on 19/09/1908. She was 25 years.

    Marriage to 38 year old widower, Henry Hamilton Haynes (5/5/1870 – 6/12/1929). 

  4. Worn by:

    Elsie Harriet (née Reeve) Haynes (9/12/1882 –3/7/1970) only as far as we know.

  5. Occasion(s):

    The marriage of Elsie Harriet Haynes to Henry Hamilton Haynes.

  6. Place:

    The Anglican church of St Martin’s in Hawkesburn (near Toorak), Melbourne, VIC. 

  7. Designed by:


    We know the dress was worn in September of 1908, but, unusually, the style is some 15 years behind that, as explained earlier in the entry. 

  8. Made by:


  9. Made for:

    Unknown. May have been made for another girl or her mother and re-used. It is not altered.

Trimmings / Decoration

The dress is in 3 pieces – a chemisette undergarment, a bodice, and a skirt. The skirt is gathered onto a waistband that is not stiffened and is connected by hooks and eyes. Hooks on the skirt connect with eyes on the bodice to stop the top coming adrift from the skirt waistband. This form of connection was only used from 1900-1910 according to the Australian Dress Register book. (p42).








Lace: A panel of white bobbin lace is appliqued down the centre front of the skirt. Matching panels are inset into the long sleeves. Net lace decorates the cuffs of the sleeves and the front of the bodice and the high neck.


The Chemisette is made of sections of fabric stitched together with flat seams. The seams provide some decoration.


Some simple hand embroidery on the chemisette. This is mainly stem stitch for vines and chain stitch for flowers. Very simple.

Fibre / Weave

White cotton satin-stripe lawn. 

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye


Machine sewn with some simple hand embroidery on the chemisette and hand sewn hooks and eyes.

Some simple hand embroidery on the chemisette underneath. 

The blouse is elaborately constructed and fastens with hooks and eyes. Some of the eyes are of black metal, some of the eyes are of white cotton oversewn, and some of the eyes are small round holes finished with oversewing to stop fraying. The bodice is connected to the skirt with larger, sturdy hooks and eyes. This was only done between 1900 and 1910 according to the Dress Register book. We know the dress was worn in September of 1908, but the style is some 15 years behind that. Perhaps it was a family dress and altered for Elsie’s wedding. Perhaps she just liked that old-fashioned style of dress. We have a photo of her around 6 years before the wedding and she is in a high stiffened neck white lace blouse. We have a photo of her 5 years after the wedding and she is in another high stiffened neck white lace blouse.


There is no label. The garment looks to be made with a domestic treadle sewing machine.



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


Straight cut. The chemisette consists of triangular sections of fabric joined on the diagonal with run and fell seams.

  1. Bias
  2. Straight


Larger hooks and eyes fasten skirt and bodice/blouse, smaller hooks and eyes do up the blouse opening and on the neck. Drawstring on chemisette.

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

Stiffening / Lining / Padding

The high collar is stiffened with boning.

I am told the style is consistent with an S-bend corset being worn. Not provided.

The dress would have been worn with a bustle pad and a white petticoat. The original is not provided but a substitute for these garments has been made and stored with the garment.


Waist 215 mm
Convert to inches

Waist – 55 cm or 21.5”

Height of wearer – 165 cm with dress just touching floor.

Dress Themes

The dress is unusual as it is 15  years out of date in a style popular in the late Victorian period. Despite being so far from Europe, Australian brides usually wore up-to-date designs to their weddings, so there may be an interesting story behind the style of this dress with its high stiffened lace collar and long full sleeves. Perhaps it was made for the bride's mother's visit to the opening of the first parliament of Australia in 9th May 1901 and this was its second wear. 

Additional material

Articles, publications, diagrams and receipts descriptions

Accesssorised with a cotton crocheted reticule with crocheted-edge lawn handkerchief.

The reticule is crocheted in what I am told is Irish crochet. There are roses and wattle balls on the reticule. There appear to be initials on the reticule involving the letter R but hard to decipher. 

It is not known whether a veil was used on the day. There is none provided. 

There appear to be two or more hands doing the crochet work.

The chemisette would have been worn under the corset to protect the corset from sweat stains. It may have been fastened in the front with straight pins as the simple drawstring would not have been adequate.


Evidence of repairs

The dress has been professionally cleaned recently, so it is generally white now and clean. 

There are a few iron stains from the hooks and eyes on the skirt. There is some slight staining on the neckline from sweat. 

Insect damage


Mould damage



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


  1. Iron stains
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