Two-piece Royal blue Silk Gown

Contributed by: Museum of the Riverina

  • Australian dress register ID:

  • Owner:

    Museum of the Riverina
  • Owner registration number:

    BGS1983.234a (jacket) b (skirt)
  • Date range:

    1890 - 1900
  • Place of origin:

    Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia
  • Gender:

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Object information

Significance statement

Historic Significance

This gown is known to have been worn by Mrs Basil Bennett at the Murrumbidgee Pastoral & Agricultural Association Show in Wagga Wagga, most probably during the 1890s.

It is one of the few pieces of 19th century costume within the Museum's collection which is provenanced to an individual, and associated with a particular local event. It is also unique as a feminine artefact which relates to the social aspect of the Wagga Show, which was often the highlight of the year for those living on properties in the Riverina.

The quality and elaborate detailing on this gown reflects the importance placed on attending the Wagga Show during the Victorian period.

Author: Michelle Maddison, .


Gown comprising separate skirt and jacket.

The skirt is blue silk, lined with cotton fabric, and a cotton waistband of cotton tape binding with three hook and eye closures. Two beige cotton tabs are hand stitched with black thread to the left and right centre on inner waistband. Bottom edge of skirt is decorated with box pleats. Blue silk tape is hand stitched to the bottom edge of the skirt. Beaded leaf appliques are stitched vertically along the two seams at the front. Angled across the front of the skirt are two rows of beaded leaf appliques on triangular sections of silk. Red thread crosses are stitched to the centre front of waistband. There is a pocket in the right side seam. Two beige cotton tabs are stitched to the interior of the right and left side seams, 40cm from the waistband.

The jacket is short, and opens at the front. It is pointed to the lower centre back, and secured with 17 hooks and eyes (painted black). It is fitted to the bust and waist, has a stand-up collar, ruffled front tapering to six pleats either side of opening, fitted sleeves from elbow to wrist, with ballooning silk fabric gathered at shoulders and ruffled over the main body of sleeve at elbow. Beaded leaf appliques are stitched along each side of front, around edge at waist, and at each cuff at front only. Silk ruffles (12cm wide x 28.5cm long) are stitched to the shoulder seams.

The jacket is supported by nine fabric covered metal (possibly copper?) stays, which are stitched to the interior. Seam edges are covered with orange silk, hand stitched into place. A metal hook is stitched to the centre back of waist. A cotton loop and an underarm perspiration protector are attached to the right arm hole seam. Beige cotton lining is present in the sleeves and along the front edges of the jacket under the ruffled opening.

History and Provenance

Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information

Eliza Kate Mulholland was born in 1857, two years after her parents Jane and Thomas John arrived in Australia.

Thomas John was the son of Moses and Letitia (nee Kithcart). Born c. 1820 in County Tyrone, Ireland. He married Jane Anderson on 1 November 1846 at Stewartson Church, Donaghenry, County Tyrone.

Jane Anderson was the daughter of James and Jane Anderson, born at Cookstown, County Tyrone, and baptised on 14 August 1824, Tullywiggan Parish, County Tyrone.

Thomas and Jane arrived in Australia on the ship "Eliza" on 18 September 1855, about the time the railway line from Sydney to Parramatta opened. Initially, they settled in Picton, NSW. The family came to the Wagga Wagga district with the McEntyres, McNickles and Montgomerys in 1869. They secured a large area of land at Oura, which was later named "Rosewood Park". They also selected at "Eunonyhareenyha".

Eliza Kate had five siblings: George James Seton Anderson, Margaret Jane, Letitia Ann, Lydia A. and Thomas John.

Little, at present, is known of Eliza Kate herself. Several selections were made in her name on the "Eunonyhareenyha" run during the 1870s. Her husband Basil was an Agent for the Royal Insurance Co., Wagga Wagga, and was later employed as a commission agent at Beckom. He was killed in a sulky accident near Ardlethan on 6 June 1912.

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

Links with social history of Wagga Wagga, particularly relating to the early settlers of the town (and early migrants to Australia). Also important links with the Murrumbidgee Pastoral & Agricultural Shows.

This garment has been exhibited

This gown has been exhibited as part of the exhibition 'Dressed for the Occasion: a History of Textiles'. Throughout its exhibition, the dress has been displayed flat in a drawer with a Perspex cover. This display format has protected the fabric from light, dust and ensures that the garment can not be touched.

  1. Place of origin:

    Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, Australia

  2. Owned by:

    Mrs Basil Barnett Bennett (nee Eliza Kate Mulholland).

  3. Worn by:

    Mrs Basil Barnett Bennett (nee Eliza Kate Mulholland).

  4. Occasion(s):

    Worn to the Murrumbidgee Pastoral & Agricultural Association Show, Wagga Wagga, New South Wales.

  5. Place:

    Wagga Wagga.

  6. Designed by:


  7. Made by:

    David Copland Ltd. (Wagga department store), c. 1890s.

  8. Made for:

    Eliza Kate Bennett

Trimmings / Decoration

Silk ruffles (jacket front) and box trim (skirt base)


Beaded leaf designs (glass beads) are appliqued to front of skirt and jacket and around jacket cuffs

Fibre / Weave

Dark blue silk

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye


A handwritten note delivered with the dress at the time of acquisition state that this dress was made locally, at David Copland & Co., a department store on Fitzmaurice Street Wagga (later became David Jones Ltd.)


The waistband may have been altered at some stage.

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


  1. Bias
  2. Straight


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

Dress Themes

It was recorded upon donation, that this dress was worn by Eliza Kate Bennett to the Wagga Show. It can therefore be assumed that she perhaps had this dress made especially for this event.

Additional material

Other related objects

There is one other object in the Museum's collection which relates to the gown worn by Mrs Barnett Bennett:

Handmade, woman's dress or evening cape with centre front opening. Brown silk with brown silk lining. Outer layer of cape decorated with black braid and outer edges trimmed with black velvet ribbon. Shawl collar with black braid trim. Metal hook and eye fastening at neck. Metal hook underneath neck fastening. Matching metal eyelet missing. Braid covered button at left and right edges (bust level) of front opening. Black cord loops attached to each button.

This cape was brought to Australia, c. 1855 by Mrs Jane Mullholland (nee Anderson) of 'Rosewood Park', who was the mother of Eliza Kate (Mrs Barnett Bennett).


This garment underwent conservation treatment at the Powerhouse Museum in 1984-85. As part of this process, the skirt and jacket were fumigated with ethylene oxide (following the discovery of a live book lice in fabric). Loose dust and dirt was vacuumed away. Loose beads and applique pieces were stitched with beige cotton. Holes and slits in silk and lining were repaired (three holes at top front of skirt were backed with silk crepoline and Beva 371, and slits in silk at bottom back of skirt was backed with silk crepoline and Beva 371). Loose beads on jacket were secured where necessary with beige cotton thread. Six rusted (iron) hooks and eyes on skirt were unpicked and tested using a magnet and Fe Spot Test. Following microscopic examination, approximately 90% of their surface was found to be covered in rust. To remove the rust, the hooks and eyes were immersed and rinsed in sodium hydroxide and deionised water, citric acid plus 4% thiorea, dewatered in acetone and dried. The metal parts were then dipped into Paraloid B72 in petroleum spirits. When dry, the lacquering process was repeated, and the hooks and eyes stitched to the waistband using black cotton. The right shoulder frill was tacked into position using black cotton thread, however the left shoulder frill was not attached to the jacket as the fabric was too deteriorated to hold the stitching.

Evidence of repairs

Lining/interfacing has been largely removed.


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


  1. Fading
  2. Brittle
  3. Crease
  4. Parts missing
  5. Torn
  6. Worn
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