Day dress made by David Jones Limited

Contributed by: Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences

Day dress made by David Jones A pair of exchange sleeves. Cross stitches on back boning. Roughly cut lace attached to the inside collar. Cream stitches reveal where dress protector was attached. Stitches holding rolls of brocade on face. Black whale bone is exposed at the top of this bodice boning. Repairs at back opening of skirt. Dark line on right indicates where pocket is. Hidden pocket in skirt laid out. Inside waistband showing Mrs G white label and David Jones label. Hooks on waistband attach to the skirt. Two eyes attach skirt to hooks on bodice waistband. Cross stitches on skirt mark centre front. Evidence of strain at waistband. Glass Negative of David Jones Corner  George Street, 1880-1923, 85/1286-216, Powerhouse Museum Pinked ruffle on inside of hem. The hem is quite thick.
  • Australian dress register ID:

  • Owner:

    Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences
  • Owner registration number:

  • Date range:

    1890 - 1900
  • Place of origin:

    Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  • Gender:

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Object information

Significance statement

This dress is significant as the earliest labelled David Jones outfit in the Powerhouse Museum's collection. It was made by David Jones in Sydney about 1895. Established in 1838, David Jones is the oldest department store in the world still trading today.

By 1880, fashionable ready-made clothing could be bought from city department stores like David Jones and Anthony Horderns. Alternatively, a length of fabric could be bought and made up into an outfit like this one for the customer. Ready-made clothing came to dominate the market over time.

This day dress is characteristic of women's costumes during the 1890s. The flat-fronted skirt with a train at the back creates a flowing line and the boned bodice and puffed sleeves aim to emphasise the hour-glass shape that was popular at the time. Trimmings and ornamentation include handmade rosettes on the elbows and bronze beads and sequins decorating the waistband and sleeves of the dress.

Mr David Jones, a Welsh-born immigrant, set up his business with the aim of selling 'the best and most exclusive goods' and carrying 'a stock that embraces the everyday wants of mankind at large'. The dress is part of an important collection of clothing sold by David Jones stores that assists in documenting the company's history. Garments include a women's silk suit (c. 1910), a wedding dress (1938), a women's aviation suit (1940) and a men's three piece suit (1930 - 1940). All these garments were tailormade for customers at a time when the department store still offered a full and partial dressmaking and tailoring service.

Author: Michelle Brown, 2007.


A day dress made from russet coloured silk and silk brocade. The dress consists of two pieces, the bodice and the skirt. Accompanying the dress is a pair of three quarter length exchange sleeves trimmed with cream lace. The dress features a form fitting bodice, shaped with thirteen internal bones and an interior waist band. The bodice, which fastens down the front, has long leg-of-mutton sleeves that have been trimmed with bronze coloured beads and sequins. The skirt hooks on to metal eyelets at the back underside of the waist band, so that the bodice supports its weight. The skirt of the dress is long and full with a train at the back. A David Jones label appears in the skirt and bodice. Another label with the owner's name can be seen sewn inside the bodice.

History and Provenance

Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information

Amy Sparrow married Frank Grimley at St Peter's Anglican Church, Sydney on September 19 1887. Frank Grimley (1853? - 1930) was a Sydney based hardware merchant and coachbuilder who by the mid 1890s was the largest wholesaler in the trade. The couple had a son and three daughters.

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

By the 1860s, advances in textile technology in Europe and America had made available a wider, cheaper range of fabrics, and the sewing machine, first patented in America in 1834, was in general use. While the machine made dressmaking easier, quicker and thus cheaper, the time saved in sewing seams was gradually taken up in creating dresses more complex in cut and construction and covered in a profusion of trimmings, embroidery and ornamentation. While this day dress dress was machine sewn, it is beautifully hand finished with embellishments of rosettes, beads and sequins.

David Jones offered dressmaking and tailoring services soon after its establishment in Sydney in 1838. While ready-made clothing became available from 1880, the dressmaking service remained popular among clients able to afford a customised wardrobe or wanting quality garments for special occasions.

  1. Place of origin:

    Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

  2. Owned by:

    The dress was donated to the Powerhouse Museum in 1964 by Miss Dora Grimley, a descendant of Mrs Amy Grimley.

  3. Worn by:

    Mrs Amy Grimley

  4. Made by:

    The dress was tailormade for Mrs Amy Grimley by David Jones. Mrs Grimley probably selected the fabric and had the dress made to size after several fittings.

  5. Made for:

    Mrs Amy Grimley

Trimmings / Decoration

There are three pleats in the faille on either side of the centre front opening to the bodice. Decorative silk brocade revers draped in two folds are attached on either side of the bodice starting at the shoulders and tapering to the waist.

The bodice is trimmed with handmade silk brocade rosettes on the elbows and bronze and gold coloured beads and sequins on a band around the waist and the wrists of the sleeves.


A brown ribbon joins the two exchange sleeves.


The bodice features an upright silk brocade collar trimmed with cream lace (a modern addition) The cuffs of the three quarter length exchange sleeves are trimmed with cream lace (possibly a modern addition).

Fibre / Weave

Russet coloured silk, floral silk brocade and faille dress trimmed with bronze and gold glass beads and metal sequins. The skirt is fully lined with russet coloured polished cotton.

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye


The dress was machine sewn and hand finished.


'David Jones & Co Costumiers, Sydney' label is sewn into the bodice and skirt.

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


  1. Bias
  2. Straight


The bodice fastens at the centre front with seventeen metal hooks and eyes. The sleeves fasten at the wrists with two metal hooks and thread eyes. The skirt fastens at the centre back with three metal hooks and eyes. The skirt hooks onto metal eyelets at the back underside of the waist band.

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

Stiffening / Lining / Padding

The bodice features thirteen internal bones.


bodice dress skirt sleeves
Neck 358 mm
Chest 682 mm
Waist 629 mm
Cuff 210 mm 374 mm
Hem circumference 3802 mm
Front neck to hem 1512 mm
Front waist to hem 1090 mm
Back neck to hem 1904 mm
Back waist to hem 1482 mm
Sleeve length 684 mm
Neck to sleeve head 99 mm
Cross back 320 mm
Underarm to underarm 406 mm
Convert to inches

The girth of the exchange sleeve head is 561 mm.

Due to the absence of any unusual seams, the fabric width could not be determined.

Additional material

Other related objects

Other items tailormade by David Jones include a women's silk suit (c. 1910), a wedding dress (1938), a women's aviation suit (1940) and a men's three piece suit (1930 - 1940).

Link to collection online



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