Grey silk and lace ankle length walking frock

Contributed by: Richmond River Historical Society Inc.

  • Australian dress register ID:

  • Owner:

    Richmond River Historical Society Inc.
  • Owner registration number:

  • Date range:

  • Place of origin:

    Uralba, New South Wales, Australia
  • Gender:

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Object information

Significance statement

It is an example of the needlework of a young woman who was born in the last year of the nineteenth century and who loved fine clothing despite the humble life her parents lived. It helps to show the aspirations of the family and their determination to educate their daughter in dressmaking. This was considered to be a worthy attainment for a young woman who would marry and have children of her own to dress creditably. Frances' sister Jessie was also instructed in dressmaking and there is a fine example of her work in the museum's collection. The silk and lace of this frock was suitable for elegant evening wear or other special events as well as the hot humid climate of the local district.

Author: Esme Smith, 18 July 2011.


Described, when donated, as a grey silk frock, it has changed colour over the years and now presents as a beige/taupe colour.

Bodice: The bodice and sleeves are in a machine embroidered matching coloured lace. The lace bodice is self trimmed with an over bodice in the form of a floating panel of the silk material which has been joined at the front and back waist. The floating panel has been edged with a flat machine tucked strip measuring 5 cm. edged on each side with a bias strip of 1 cm. The over bodice has no shoulder seams and has been cut in a flat piece which is joined at the waist to the front and back bodice and skirt by a 2 cm. bias strip. It has a front opening but is without buttons, buttonholes, or hooks and eyes.

The lace bodice is faced with a narrow bias strip of silk and has a centre front opening extending to the waist. This opening extends along the waist line to a side placket (gusset) on the left side of the skirt. The skirt is closed along the skirt gusset with 8 hooks and hand made loops. 7 of the original brass coloured hooks are still visible while one has been replaced with a modern hook. On the other side of the gusset, four of the original finely embroidered loops are still intact. The barbs of the original hooks were hidden by a facing strip of self material thus giving a neat appearance.

Sleeves: Long wrist length sleeves with have been cut to form part of the bodice and in identical embroidered lace to that forming the rest of the bodice.

Skirt: Four panelled gathered skirt. Self trim at hemline of flat tucked band measuring 7.5cms. plus the binding strip giving an overall measurement of 9.5 cm with the same trim beginning 31 cm. from the top of the hem band.

Belt: Grey silk stiffened - three folds in fabric, fastened by hooks and hand loops.

History and Provenance

This frock was made and worn by Frances Richards, nee Simpson (born 1899), the daughter of Pearson Hudson Simpson and his wife Eliza Rose Beh. Her grandfather Pearson Simpson, one of the earliest settlers in the Ballina District, arrived in the Richmond River District in 1842 where he and a partner entered the timber trade as timber cutters and traders. They built a saw pit on the water's edge at North Creek where they prepared timber for sale. The family's early housing was crude, given the remoteness of the area where they settled and the difficulty in obtaining satisfactory building material. Eventually they moved to Uralba, a short distance from their first home. Given their humble accommodation it is significant that they continued to live a genteel life. This frock demonstrates the family's desire to have their daughter enjoy the finer traditions which her grandfather had enjoyed in England and which the family sought to continue even in a remote district of Australia. It is significant that Frances' younger sister Jessie was also taught to make clothing, as another piece held by the museum was made by Jessie for her mother Eliza Rose.

Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information

Frances L. Simpson was the elder daughter of Pearson Hudson Simpson and Eliza Rose Beh who married in the Ballina District in 1898. She had a sister Jessie (born 1904) and a brother Charles (born 1901).

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

Frances claimed that she made this frock at Technical School but there would seem to be some doubt about this because it is claimed that technical classes did not commence in the Richmond River District until 1918 when a Miss Stuart of A.G. Robertson Ltd., a Lismore department store, 'conducted winter classes in dressmaking' (Bass, Ray "Education in Lismore" Northern Rivers College of Advanced Education, 1980 p. 87).

It is possible that this frock was made as claimed by Frances Richards (nee Simpson) in 1912 while still at school. She would have been about 13 years of age if this date is correct.

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

It is an example of the way that financially struggling families clung to their more genteel lifestyle whereby they inculcated their children with a finer living style.

Where did this information come from?

Oral information from Mrs. F. Richards when she donated the frock to the museum.

This garment has been exhibited

At the Society's Museum.

  1. Place of origin:

    Uralba, New South Wales, Australia

  2. Cost:

    Not known

  3. Owned by:

    Frances Richards (nee Simpson).

  4. Worn by:

    Frances Simpson

  5. Occasion(s):

    Not known

  6. Place:

    Uralba, Richmond River district (near Ballina).

  7. Made by:

    Frances Simpson and is thought she made it for her Technical College examination.

  8. Made for:

    Frances Simpson

Trimmings / Decoration


Edged self fabric bias piping, width 5.5cm on bodice, 6.5 cm and 7.5 cm on skirt.


Bodice and sleeves in the same coloured machine embroidered lace.


Panels of self fabric with small, flat tucks.

Fibre / Weave

1. Silk weave and silk skirt (See comment in trimmings regarding the bodice).

2. Silk lace bodice, lace sleeves.

3. Uneven weave.

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye


  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

Stiffening / Lining / Padding


Dress Themes

Special Occasion: This is assumed because of the quality of the fabrics and the style.

Additional material

Other related objects

A black beaded frock made by Jesse Simpson (sister to Frances) for her mother Eliza Rose during World War l. (Ref: letter written by Frances Richards 26/7/1974 to RRHS Inc.)


Insect damage

Minor damage - holes caused by moths.


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


  1. Discolouration
  2. Fading
  3. Holes
  4. Stained
  5. Worn
  6. Iron stains
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