Australian Dress Register

March 4, 2020 at 12:46 pm (fashion) (, , , )


What IS the Australian Dress Register?

“The Australian Dress Register is a collaborative, online project about dress with Australian provenance. It includes men’s, women’s and children’s clothing ranging from the special occasion to the everyday. Museums and private collectors are encouraged to research their garments and share the stories and photographs while the information is still available and within living memory. The Register encourages people to consider their collections very broadly and share what they know about members of their community, what they wore and life in the past. This provides access to a world-wide audience while keeping their garments in their relevant location.”

I looked at ONE garment, in-depth, to be better able to tell you about the site:

A Silver & Blue shot silk dress, English (Devonshire); c1810-1813

dress_silver-blue c1810

It’s believed to have been brought from England to Australia by Ann Deane, “who arrived in Sydney in 1838 with her son Robert, daughters Ann and Mary, and nephew Edgar.”

A description of the piece gives the following useful information:

A one-piece dress in silver and blue shot silk, with a pattern of dark blue flowers. The dress has a high waist, with a square back neckline and a dropdown bib-front. The bodice interior is lined with cream cotton panels. The full-length sleeves has a gathered sleeve head and extended cuffs over hands, with silk floss-corded trim at the band. The five-panelled skirt is gathered at the centre back and designed to be worn over a small back bustle pad. A cotton tape drawstring is attached to the interior of the bodice, and there are blue silk ribbon ties at back (not the original ties).

The site answered a question I had: Why would she bring this to Australia, and not “recut” it to a more modern style? (ie, How ‘original’ is its state?) “Made of valuable silk, the dress ‘along with other items of apparel’ was bequeathed to Ann’s eldest daughter and it became a treasured family heirloom.”

Sections of the webpage are dedicated to:

  • zoomable photographs – front, back, side views; as well as several showing the interior construction [note: the number of photographs differs from piece to piece; this garment was well-represented]
  • a “significance” statement
  • history & provenance (including any exhibition history)
  • trimmings & decorations
  • fiber/weave; manufacture details (hand vs machine sewn, for instance); etc.
  • measurements (GIRTH: chest, waist, hem; VERTICAL: neck to hem, sleeve length; HORIZONTAL: neck opening, across back, underarm) [in millimeters, site converts to inches at the click of a link]
  • garment condition
  • articles & further information
dress_silver-blue c1810 closeup
(note: I could not get the ‘full screen’ to toggle; ‘home’ reverts back to entire photo)

Ann Deane is known to have been christened in Devon in November 1772. Ann (née Pidsley) married Thomas Deane in Devon in 1807. So she was a young married woman (and four of her six children were born by 1813) during the period, 1810-1813, when this dress would have been worn.

Ann Deane must have been TINY! A chest measurement less than 24 ½-inches; the back neck to hem length is just 54 ¾-inches (she probably stood under 5’5″); the sleeves, at 27 ½-inches, are already seen to go beyond the wrist.

Ann’s husband had died about a decade before her emigration.

There are MANY ways to search the Australian Dress Register site, by garment-type; by time period; by gender. There are uniforms and wedding dresses; clothing originated in many countries (Australia predominant). More being added, of course, as the site grows.

After viewing a uniform dress coat and hat once belonging to a Royal Navy Officer, 1832-1853, and because they ask people to “share”, I wondered: Do other countries offer such a REGISTRY?

What a Fabulous (online) idea! Let’s hope other countries jump on the bandwagon.

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