2 Piece beige silk ensemble

Contributed by: Manning Valley Historical Society

Ladies beige silk two piece ensemble c.1880's Bodice detail Cuff design Pleat construction Underside of skirt showing ties and channels
  • Australian dress register ID:

  • Owner:

    Manning Valley Historical Society
  • Owner registration number:

    Mosaic 4516
  • Date range:

    1878 - 1890
  • Place of origin:

    Wingham, New South Wales, Australia
  • Gender:

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Object information

Significance statement

This dress is a fine example of formal clothing worn at the end of the 19th century. Although the dress may have been initially made for a wedding it has been subsequently reworn for many an occasion. It has also been altered significantly to fit a larger lady evidenced not only by the waist extension but by the movement of the shoulder seams. It has also seen a change in fashion where some of the ties that may have supported a bustle structure have been cut off. With this well tailored dress made of a practical choice of silk fabric for our local climate, it is a good example of reuse and handing down. It was well cared for though some moth damage has occurred to the lace and some staining has been left by the red satin bows.

Author: Margaret Clarke, 20th May 2010.


An ensemble made of natural coloured tussah silk comprising of a fully lined jacket and skirt.

The skirt has two peplums at the front. The peplum on the left has dropped. The peplum and the side pocket are trimmed with hand knitted fine wool (possibly merino) lace. The skirt has a large crimson satin bow on the centre front sitting between both peplums. The skirt is completed by two rows of long pleats, which sit below these peplums. The lower silk pleats are sewn onto a calico underskirt in order to use less silk. These pleats are stiffened with gauze and supported by lengths of bias binding. The waistband has been extended by three inches at some point. It has two non-original hooks at waist and an original brass hook further down the opening. This 30cm deep opening also has a cotton tie as a closure.

Interestingly, the back left quarter of the calico lining has two channels with slits to support possibly a physical stiffener being threaded through. This quarter also has two series of fine ties for a purpose we cannot determine. There was another third wider set of ties set below the other two but these have been cut off at some stage. There are two tiers of material at the rear of dress, which form a bustle. The pocket is on the left hip.

The jacket has three matching crimson satin bows - there appears to be a fourth missing from just below the collar. Two rows of fine wool knitted lace trim also run down the front of jacket on either side of centre front and along its hemline. There are 10 beige buttons possibly made of a polished mineral that appear original. The jacket has puffed shoulders at the head of the sleeve dropping to a straight cut sleeve. Each cuff has a crimson satin bow and piping. The back of the jacket is formed from 5 pieces, which are tailored to draw in and define the waist. There is an internal twill waistband inside the bodice. There is a small watch pocket on the left side.

The collar appears to be possibly non-original. It is made of beige fine cotton and is of a double ruffle construction.

History and Provenance

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

This is a fine example of formal dress from the end of the 19th c. This dress was expertly made and this is a well interpreted version of the style. Very simple fabric for an elaborate style of dress and very suitable for the Manning Valley climate.

  1. Place of origin:

    Wingham, New South Wales, Australia

  2. Owned by:


  3. Worn by:


  4. Occasion(s):

    Formal wear and possibly a wedding dress.

  5. Place:

    Wingham District

Trimmings / Decoration


Crimson satin ribbon is sewn into an unusual form of bow used on bodice, cuffs and skirt.


On cuffs of sleeves.


Hand knitted lace made of fine wool used as trim on jacket and skirt peplums.


Front of the skirt from waist to hem and also at base of first tier.

Fibre / Weave

Beige tussah silk dress with satin bows and hand knitted fine wool lace.

Possibly cotton beige collar.

A cotton gauze is used as a stiffener/interfacing in strips above pleats and back of hems of pleats. Both the skirt and jacket is lined with calico. Cotton bias binding is used at back of neck and on waistband to form loops for hanging. It is also used in horizontal strips to support the pleats.

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye


Obviously a highly qualified dressmaker handmade this garment initially. The button holes are hand made. Mixture of hand and machine work. Main seams are machine sewn.

The dress has been altered at the waist by approximately 3 inches. The head of the sleeves were also let out by 1 cm on either side of seam. The collar has possibly been replaced. The alterations appear to be performed at home and are rather crude compared to original dressmaking skills.


No label.

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


Skirt is flared from waist. The jacket is tailored.

  1. Bias
  2. Straight


The original hook and eyes are made of brass. The four hole buttons are possibly made of a highly polished stone a beige colour with tiny flecks of rust.

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

Stiffening / Lining / Padding

The skirt and jacket are fully lined with calico.

The museum has possibly added modern black shoulder pads.

Cotton gauze and narrow cotton bias binding is used to stiffen and support pleats on underside of garment.


jacket skirt
Neck 400 mm
Chest 480 mm
Waist 720 mm 840 mm
Hip 940 mm 1720 mm
Cuff 280 mm
Hem circumference 2120 mm
Front neck to hem 470 mm
Front waist to hem 160 mm 970 mm
Back neck to hem 620 mm
Back waist to hem 250 mm 970 mm
Sleeve length 580 mm
Neck to sleeve head 150 mm
Cross back 360 mm
Underarm to underarm 470 mm
Convert to inches


The crimson bows have left some dye bleeding stains on the beige silk. There are small holes from insect damage and pins. There is possibly a fourth crimson bow missing from just below the collar.

Evidence of repairs

This dress has had extensive alteration. The dress was let out at waist by 3 inches to either accommodate a second owner, weight gain or pregnancy. Altering the waist had a large effect on the appearance of peplums which consequently shifted.

The centre front bow on skirt has also shifted. It has also been tacked up at some point to spread the bow for display. Perhaps originally it was designed to hang like the bodice and cuff bows.

The shoulder puffs at head of sleeve have also been let out professionally by 1cm either side of seam.

The collar has been crudely tacked on.

Some hook and eyes used on the waistband have been replaced with modern equivalents.

Insect damage

Some moth damage to the hand knitted woollen lace.


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


  1. Discolouration
  2. Holes
  3. Parts missing
  4. Water damage
  5. Worn
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