Selina Pockley's day dress

Contributed by: The Cavalcade of History and Fashion Inc.

Front view Back view Side view Every Day bodice with lace collar and engageants Inner Construction Of Nursing Bodice Maternity bodice Bodice Separate Skirt Band Details Engageant (not original) Pocket with in skirt
  • Australian dress register ID:

  • Owner:

    The Cavalcade of History and Fashion Inc.
  • Owner registration number:

  • Date range:

    1868 - 1882
  • Place of origin:

    North Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  • Gender:

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Object information

Significance statement

This day gown was designed with a special bodice that would allow Selina to breast feed her child. As Selina had a total of fifteen children it would have been a very useful garment. The striped taffeta day-gown is dated as C.1868 and is of three pieces the bustle skirt, bodice and bustle. However it also has the additional special bodice with slits for breast feeding that could be worn after the birth of a baby.

Selina was the daughter of Major Henry Colden Antill (1779-1852) who had been aide-de-camp to Governor Macquarie. He and Macquarie had a firm friendship and he accompanied Macquarie on a number of excursions. He also was a member of various committees concerned with the welfare of orphans, public schools and Aboriginals.

Author: Jeanette Moles, September 2010.


This brown striped taffeta day dress has four parts - a day bodice (1), a nursing bodice (2), skirt and back bustle flounce.

Both boned bodices fasten at the front with hooks and eyes, the nursing bodice with additional hooks and eyes over each breast.

The full skirt has large hidden pockets at each side of the front.

The two piece sleeves finish just above the wrist with a frill.

The bustle with large bow at back has its own waistband which fastens at the front.

Bustle flounce is completely hand stitched.

Bodice and skirt are lined with glazed cotton. Overall the outfit has a mixture of hand and machine stitching.

The outfit would have been worn with a lace collar and engageantes (under sleeves). (The Cavalcade have added these from their collection but they do not belong to this outfit.)

History and Provenance

Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information

Selina was born on the 17th October 1837 at Jarvisfield. Stonequarry, New South Wales. This was her father's estate which had been named in honour of Govenor Macquarie's first wife Jane Jarvis. Selina was christened on 9th November 1837 in the Church of England at Cobbity, Narellan.

Selina had a number of siblings. The family consisted of three daughters and six sons. Her mother Eliza(nee Wills) was the daughter of the emancipist Edward Wills and his wife Sarah Wills.

Selina married Robert Francis Pockley (1823-1892) on 21st August 1854 in Camden, NSW. Robert at the age of nine had gone to sea as a cabin boy on the "Eleanor". He gained his master's ticket in 1842. He was a sea captain who became a ship owner and harbour master of Sydney in the 1850's.

Selina and Robert settled in a home named "Pictonville" built by Robert Pockley for Selina in North Sydney. In 1885 when the youngest child Helen was about three years old they sold Pictonville and Robert built his large family a gracious home "Lorne" on the Pacific Highway,Killara. The mansion had 25 rooms. Both Selina and her husband were very keen gardeners and Lorne was described (by historian D.G.Selkirk) as 'a garden of tranquil delights'.

Selina died in 1924 at the age of 87, having survived her husband by 32 years. She was buried with him at St. Thomas's cemetery at North Sydney.

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

Selina was 16 when she married, her husband 14 years her senior, Robert Pockley. Two years later he was appointed Portsmaster and Superintendant of Pilots and Lights for the Port of Sydney.

Her taffeta gown was used after the arrival of a new baby. While awaiting the arrival of a newborn, one was said to be "in an interesting condition" typifying the modesty and decorum of the era. Selina must of spent much of her time in this condition. All of her 15 children except two grew to adulthood.

Selina, her husband and family, attended Sunday Services at St. John's Anglican Church, Gordon, then only a small stone chapel.

Lorne was demolished in 1925 by the Water Board to make way for the water reservoir on the site. Today, the only reminder is Lorne Avenue which once ran beside this imposing residence.

Francis Antill Pockley (her second son) was one of the first opthalmic surgeons in Sydney.

Selinas' grand-son Brian Pockley was the first Australian to be killed in WWI on the 11 Sept 1914.

Selina died in 1924 aged 87.

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

Probably the fact that a nursing bodice was designed at all is of some importance. Knowledge of such an item is rare. Having 15 children she would have been nursing many times.

Engageants (not original in this case) ceased to be worn c.1865 but it seems continued to be worn in Australia. This indicates how long news of fashion took to reach our shores. It is quite possible that although fashion knowledge was up to date garments of this complexity were not discarded at whim.

Engageantes- Worn from the end of the 17th Century to c. mid 19th century were detachable white under sleeves edged with lace or embroidery.

This pair of under sleeves is detachable and without lace. They formed the function of keeping the outer garment clean so engageantes were frequently laundered. The item shown in the attached picture is not original to Selina's outfit.

Where did this information come from?

Engageantes The Ladies Dictionary 1690.

Descendants of Edward Spencer Wills

The Pockley Family (State Library of NSW)

Returning to nothing: the meaning of lost places by Peter Read

Australian Dictionary of Biography- online edition, Antill,Henry Colden

The Pockley Family and Descendants in Australia 1842-1976

The Currency Lad, A biography of Horatio Spencer Howe Wills and the story of his immediate family 1797-1918

This garment has been exhibited

Since being donated to Cavalcade of History and Fashion , this garment has been exhibited and displayed a number of times. Also it appeared in an article in the Lifestyle section of the Ku-ring-gai Observer in November 2002. The article was titled "The Lady of Lorne"and written by Jill Lyons.

  1. Place of origin:

    North Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

  2. Cost:

    No records of the cost of the garment have been made.

  3. Owned by:

    Selina Pockley nee Antill.

    Daughter of Major Henry Colden Antill (1779-1852) who had been aide-de-camp to Govenor Macquarie. Her Mother Eiza (nee Wills) daughter of the emancipist Edward Wills and wife Sarah.

  4. Worn by:

    Selina Pockley, nee Antill.

  5. Occasion(s):

    Used for all occasions and while nursing her 15 children as well. A very versatile garment design.

  6. Place:

    Pictonville House North Sydney, then Lorne House on the Pacific Highway, Killara where the couple lived during their married life.

  7. Designed by:

    Unknown. Probably a local dressmaker.

  8. Made by:


  9. Made for:

    Selina Pockley, nee Antill.

Trimmings / Decoration

Self Fabric is used in gathered bias binding to embellish the bustle flounce, the same method although narrower, is used on the sleeve opening on the long sleeved bodice.

The methods used in construction are expertly worked.


Used on all openings including waist of bodices and on breast openings on nursing bodice.


Knife pleats and cartridge pleats to bring skirt waist in to fit.

Fibre / Weave

Brown striped taffeta fabric used throughout all pieces.

The Bustle flounce or apron is lined with a fine chambray like fabric. The side panels are cut on the true bias grain while the back is cut on the straight. The lining is of plain weave and the fabric has some slubs visible. The waistband of the apron is khaki satin weave, the lining held in place by hand slip stitching on all four corners. It is fastened with two brass hooks and thread worked eyes.

Lining of Bodice (with long sleeves) and nursing bodice is of khaki coloured heavy twill fabric.

Reliable information in relation to the dye used is not available.

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye


Bustle Flounce

- Centre back is gathered at the waist to approx 110mm wide finishing short of

frilled edge.

- frill, double, bias bind; gathered and applied first to the wrong

side then finished to the right side.

Nursing Bodice

- running stitch used, very fine and small.

- seams hand overcast to prevent fraying.

- boning encased with bias strips and slip stitched to open


Skirt - nine panels, six at the back, three at the front.

- fullness reduced at the waist by pleating knife (back) and cartridge


- side back placket, 250 mm allows garment to be placed on easily

- waist band, slip stitched into place.

- Centre back seam, a reverse seam to approx 115mm above garments hem (this would look much neater when the hem lifted, possibly with a skirt raiser).

- Thread eyes on skirt waistline attach to hooks on bodice.


None appears probably made by a dressmaker. It was not the practice at this time for dressmakers to label garments, unless they were associated with a department store.


The Lace collar is attached to the bodice by hand and is probably not the original.

Centre front placket was probably added to increase the size of bust and waist.

The original skirt waistband has been re-covered with organza.

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


Main garment sections are all cut on the straight grain.

The bustle flounce however, features side sections cut on the true bias as well as the double bias gathered bind which covers all of its' edges.

Main Bodice is cut on the straight grain, due to the size of the bust dart the stripes between the dart and the side seam appear on the diagonal.

The selvage of the fabric has been used on the centre front opening facing which is simply folded back.

  1. Bias
  2. Straight


Heavy brass hooks and eyes fasten the two bodice fronts. Covered buttons are attached but form only a decorative effect and are not functional at all.

Four brass hooks allow the bodice to be secured to the skirt waistline.

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

Stiffening / Lining / Padding

Both bodices are boned.


bodice overskirt Second Bodice skirt
Neck 380 mm 405 mm
Chest 910 mm 890 mm
Waist 710 mm 695 mm 685 mm 688 mm
Cuff 375 mm
Hem circumference 4137 mm
Front neck to hem 315 mm 330 mm
Front waist to hem 1055 mm
Back neck to hem 410 mm 425 mm
Back waist to hem 320 mm 1110 mm
Sleeve length 520 mm
Neck to sleeve head 210 mm 160 mm
Cross back 335 mm 325 mm
Underarm to underarm 450 mm 395 mm
Convert to inches

Bows decorate the sleeved Bodice at the centre front and the on each sleeve. The dimensions of these bows are as follows.

Bodice front : 60mm long by 30mm wide consisting of a three piece construction.

Sleeves : 80 in length, 30mm at the centre, or throat, and 56mm at both ends consisting of a two piece construction.

PLEASE NOTE - The second set of Bodice measurements refers to the nursing bodice

Dress Themes

A practical garment.

Used for everday wear after the birth of her children.

By swapping the bodices Selina could continue to wear her ensemble until her next pregnancy made it too small to wear.

It probably was a favourite garment perhaps used for the new baby's christening.


Pictonville was renamed to "Doohat" after its sale and the only reminder of this home today is an avenue named Doohat in the Killara area where the house once stood.

The children of Selina and Robert Pockley were as follows:

Robert Fulcher Pockley 1855-1860

Francis Antill Pockley 1857-1941

Arthur Bingham Pockley 1859-1860

Alice Isabella Pockley 1861-1944

Henry Richardson Pockley 1863-1926

Florence Augusta Pockley 1866

Ethel Ernestine Pockley 1868-1895

Norman Vanderbyl Pockley 1869- 1910

Kathleen Mabel Pockley 1872-1997

Eustace Mitford Pockley 1873-1874

Edith Muriel Pockley 1873-1951

Harold Campbell Pockley 1874-1941

Eric Osbaldeston Pockley 1876-1956

Enid Marguerite Pockley 1879-1970

Helen Marjorie Pockley 1882-1974

References to Selina and her antecedents can be found in the following:

Decendants of Edward Spencer Wills

The Pockley family State library of NSW

Returning to nothing: the meaning of lost places by Peter Read

Australian Dictionary of Biography -online edition Antill, Henry Colden

The Lady of Lorne by Jill Lyone November 2002 Lifestyle

The Pockley Family and descendants in Australia 1842-1976

The Currency Lad, a biography of Horatio Spencer Howe Wills and the story of his immediate family 1797-1918.

Evidence of repairs

It does appear that the fastening at the centre front of each bodice has been altered.

Probably necessary after the birth of her first few children.

Repairs are required on several places as some alterations have occurred.

Bustle flounce some fraying of main fabric on left hand side waist.

Nursing Bodice, front darts left hand side . Piping is coming off stitching broken.

Bodice, stitching undone on left hand side 1st dart revealing bone casing lining. Left sleeve at shoulder point undone.

Insect damage

Appears on the bustle flounce lining .

Nursing bodice on the twill lining fabric.

Skirt also shows evidence of some insect damage.


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


  1. Fading
  2. Crease
  3. Worn
  4. Iron stains
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