Wedding dress of Mrs Rebecca Irvine

Contributed by: Manning Valley Historical Society

Rebecca Irvine (nee Summerville) Rear view Side view Newspaper accounts of the wedding from the Manning River Times and Wingham Chronicle. The rebuilt Wombateena homestead The Irvine family of 'Wombateena' Dingo creek.
  • Australian dress register ID:

  • Owner:

    Manning Valley Historical Society
  • Owner registration number:

  • Date range:

  • Place of origin:

    Dingo Creek, Wingham, New South Wales, Australia
  • Gender:

[Collapse all]

Object information

Significance statement

This dress is an important and well provenanced wedding gown. It was made to be worn at a celebration that would see the joining of two of the Upper Manning's prominent farming families the Summervilles and the Irvines.

Upon examination of both Mary Halpin and Rebecca Summerville's gowns, we appreciate the economic growth experienced from the mid to late 1880s; pioneers harvesting the rich virgin hard wood and cedar forests around the Mid North Coast and in turn establishing dairy and beef cattle interest on the newly cleared land. David Irvine's, Cousin Robert Irvine (a share farmer on Wombateena) became the largest supplier of cream to Wingham.

This agricultural boom ensured a more prosperous existence for Thomas and Rebecca Irvine at the turn of the 20th century.

The gown is typical of the period using near translucent silk and rich cream lace. With a boned bodice, the gown has all the gathering, trimmings and blousing of quality fabrics to create the fashionable silhouette of the time worn by a young lady with means.

Following his parents death and with the original Wombateena homestead now rebuilt, the newly married young couple were set to continue to prosper and build their families stature within the community.

However, the young family of T.A Irvine was struck by tragedy when Rebecca passed away during the third wave of the Spanish flu in the Winter of 1918. From recorded accounts, the Irvine's experience of the Spanish Flu was true of most anecdotal experience, that is, that it was the ones who recovered and promptly got up to take care of others that often died. In fact, at the time of Rebecca's death her son Robert was still "laid up with the malady".

Although Thomas continued with his agricultural pursuits; with an interest in stud cattle stock and amassing more land which was shared farmed, the widowed father moved his young family into Taree Estate, closer to the regional high school, where he built a new home with a likeness to the Wombateena homestead. Both homes still stand today.

This gown was made to be laid away and passed on to successive generations, and indeed it did, until it was ultimately generously donated to the Manning Valley Historical Society by Helen Sharp (nee Edstein) granddaughter of Rebecca and daughter of Lily.

Author: Marsha Rennie, 13/2/2013.


This fashionable four piece Edwardian wedding gown was worn by Rebecca Summerville at her wedding to Thomas Irvine on the Upper Manning in 1905. It consists of four components: a bodice, skirt, lining and waistband. The gown is constructed of various silk, lace and organza in complimentary shades of cream, beige and coffee.

The bodice has a high lace collar supported in an upright position with two pieces of boning. There is a false bib made from machine lace from the neck to the bust line which is covered in 3 cream satin bows down the centre front. From the rear, the lace panel forms a V line. The bib is attached to the right hand side of the bodice. To the left opening there is 6 brass hooks . The bodice is lined with cotton faille and has 6 x 180mm pieces of boning from the bodice hem up under the bust. Various tucks and folds give a firm fit around the mid section under the blousy shawl like collar. The legs of mutton sleeves have a straight line of stitching at mid bicep to form a second puff. The period sleeve is accentuated with a 14cm band of pleated organza (feels synthetic); this is a modern addition (perhaps restoration) by Rebecca's Granddaughter Judy Wisemantal who was a skilled seamstress. 190mm lace sleeves sit below and are tightly secured at the wrist with 3 brass hook and eyes. The cuff was also restored and trimmed with 3cm wide pleated organza.

The sheer silk skirt has a cotton lining with a deep frill on the hemline to give it weight. The skirt also has a cotton tape waistband above rows of heavy gathering. The skirt fastens off centre front (left) with 5 brass hooks and hand sewn eyes. It has a brass eye at centre front to allow it to adjoin the bodice. It is constructed of seven silk panels, the front ones appearing straighter, whilst the back with inserted v shaped panels are shaped to give the required length and fullness to support a small bustle. There are 2 rows of lace around the circumference to form alternating horizontal panels of lace and lightly gathered silk.

The hemline is complete with three rows of pin tucking and a 3.5cm scalloped lace edge.

The original gown was completed with a coffee coloured ruched waist band.

History and Provenance

Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information

Rebecca Summerville (b. 29 November 1873 ) one of twin daughters to John and Margaret Summerville (nee Campbell) of 'The Cedars' Dingo Creek. Rebecca's twin Lily died in 1898 unmarried.

Rebecca married Thomas Agnew Irvine son of the late David and Mary Irvine (nee Halpin) of Dingo Creek. Thomas was a well known grazier and landowner, his property Wombateena became their home.

Thomas and Rebecca had four children:

1.John Summerville b. 29th June 1906

2.Mary Lily b.31st August 1907

3.David Allen b. 29th July 1909

4.Robert Thomas b. 3rd April 1912

Rebecca died on 21st July 1918 after nursing her family with pneumonic influenza.

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

Rebecca and Thomas made their home at 'Wombateena' , Dingo Creek, Wingham and had four children. The new Wombateena homestead as depicted in the attached photo was built the year before the wedding with the original homestead owned by David & Mary Irvine (nee Halpin) demolished. After nursing her family through the spanish flu , she finally succumbed herself and passed away on the 21st July 1918.

Sometime after Rebecca's death, Thomas moved his young children into Taree estate where he built a new homestead, a replica of Wombateena. This also ensured his children were close to the regional high school to ensure further education. Both homes still stand today.

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

No expense appears to have been spared whilst creating this luxurious gown made specifically for a brides wedding day and made to be laid away for the future. This gown is a stark contrast against the brown utilitarian nursing gown (ADR 416) worn by her mother in law, a pioneering settler and new immigrant at Wombateena only a generation before. It is not only a contrast of the simple yet voluminous Victorian tea gown against the generously trimmed and slimmer silhouette of the Edwardian gown with flounces and lace but also of the changing economic circumstances of father and son. The four decades of hard work and frugality by David and Mary Irvine ensured that Thomas and his new wife Rebecca may enjoy a more comfortable existence on Wombateena in the early 1900's.

Where did this information come from?

This information was shared from the donor Mrs Barbara Waters ( Rebecca's granddaughter) and newspaper accounts.

This garment has been exhibited

This garment was first exhibited at the Wingham Show's centenary celebration.

It subsequently appeared at the Manning Valley Historical Societies celebration of History Week 8 - 16 September 2012 'Threads They wore what?!' where many of the Societies well provenanced historical wedding gowns were exhibited including three generations of gowns from the Irvine family.

  1. Place of origin:

    Dingo Creek, Wingham, New South Wales, Australia

  2. Owned by:

    Mrs Rebecca Irvine (nee Summerville)

  3. Worn by:

    Mrs Rebecca Irvine (nee Summerville)

  4. Occasion(s):

    The marriage of Rebecca Summerville to Thomas Irvine.

  5. Place:

    'The Cedars' , Dingo Creek, Wingham - The Summerville Family property.

  6. Made for:

    Miss Rebecca Summerville

Trimmings / Decoration


Cream satin ribbon form three bows down centre front with a large rosette where both sides of the collar meet.


The high collar and bodice bib is made of machine lace. Lengths of lace ribbon is used on skirt.


Tucking and ruching is used plentifully to give both the traditional fit and blousey effect where necessary.

Fibre / Weave

The gown is largely constructed of cream silk chiffon. The bodice appears to be lined in cotton faile. The gown has machine lace in beige with cream lace ribbon running horizontally along the skirt. It has an original waistband made of lined silk chiffon and a replica waistband made of satin. It appears that synthetic pleated organza has been used in the restoration of the collar,sleeves and cuff frills. Three satin bows run down the chest with a large rosette sitting at centre front on the edge where both sides of the collar meet.

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye


Machine straight stitch but with handworked eyes for hook fastenings.


A second waist band made of ruched satin was produced by the granddaughter Judith Wisemental to celebrate the Centenary of Wingham Show. Judith also added cuffs and a collar of finely pleated organza. It is thought that the restorations have been in keeping with the original design of the dress.

  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

Six cotton covered bones (18cm long) have been inserted into the bodice under the bustline at centre front, centre back and on both sides. There is also two pieces of boning inserted on either side of the high lace neck.

Granddaughter Judith Wisemantal used three pieces of bone in her replica waistband although there are no signs of boning on the original waistband.

The bodice appears to be lined with cotton faile.


bodice skirt
Neck 330 mm
Waist 510 mm 530 mm
Cuff 180 mm
Hem circumference 3760 mm
Front waist to hem 1040 mm
Back neck to hem 380 mm
Back waist to hem 1110 mm
Sleeve length 570 mm
Neck to sleeve head 70 mm
Cross back 300 mm
Underarm to underarm 380 mm
Convert to inches

Original Waistband 620 mm

Rep. Waistband 620 mm

Additional material

Other related objects

This dress relates to the Wedding gown of Mary Irvine (nee Halpin) ADR # 416 as Mary was Rebecca's Mother-in-law. The Manning Valley Historical Society also retains the Summerville Bible in their collection. This bible was presented to Rebecca and Thomas upon marriage.


There are signs of sweat staining under the arms and general stains from useage. There is coral red lipstick on the left sleeve which may have been left when worn by her granddaughter during Wingham centenary celebrations.

Evidence of repairs

Judith Wisemantel has done a wonderful job in producing a replica satin waistband and by adding frills of finely pleated organza along the collar, sleeves and cuffs. She has used machine zigzag stitch.


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


  1. Stained
[Collapse all]