Australian dress register ID:508
Owner:Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences
Owner registration number:A8070
Place of origin:Eglinton near Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia
This wedding dress was worn by Hannah Palser Prior for her marriage to Alfred Matthew Adlam at Holy Trinity Church, Kelso, near Bathurst on 16 August 1882. The museum also holds Hannah and Alfred's wedding accessories, including shoes, gloves, handkerchiefs, and a wax orange blossom sprig worn at the neck of Hannah's gown, along with a photograph of the bride on her wedding day. The wedding dress and related items are well provenanced examples of an Australian colonial woman's wedding outfit.
Although wedding dresses of the time came in many colours and were usually worn again as a ‘best dress’, Hannah seems to have been able to afford a ‘white’ wedding dress which she kept in pristine condition and passed on to her youngest daughter Thelma.
The white wedding dress became increasingly popular in England and its colonies during the 19th century, its acceptance hastened by the cream silk gown worn by Queen Victoria for her marriage to Prince Albert in 1840. Unlike the more fanciful bridal dresses of the 20th and 21st century, wedding dresses of the 1800s followed the style of fashionable day dresses, although usually in richer materials. This was deemed appropriate since the dresses were also meant to be worn on social occasions after the event.
By the 1880s fashionable dress was becoming available to a wider cross-section of Australian society. 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 dresses easier, quicker and thus cheaper to make, the time saved in sewing seams was gradually taken up in creating dresses like Hannah's, more complex in cut and construction and covered in a profusion of trimmings.
Its assured cut and construction, with slim-fitting bodice and detailed trimmings, suggests the work of a professional dressmaker. This dress follows closely the fashionable gowns described on the ladies' page of the Sydney Mail 28 January 1882: 'Afternoon and evening toilettes are made princess shape, with a drapery closely gauged in front, reaching nearly to the kilting, which seems indispensable as the decoration for the edge of all dresses.' Author: , .
The wedding dress is made from fine cream coloured wool with silk satin and silk gauze trim, silk bustle and train. The dress has a fitted cuirasse bodice extending below the waist and a straight skirt to ankle length. The bodice has a detachable satin and wool stand collar and opens down the centre front to the hip, fastening with eighteen satin covered buttons. It is trimmed with a detachable spray of wax orange blossom at the front neck. The long sleeves are set into the armholes with satin piping and are finished with a wide panel of satin ruching at the cuff. The straight skirt features a wide panel of ruched woollen fabric across the front and is trimmed with three rows of pleating or kilting at the hem. An asymmetrical wool sash is attached across the front of skirt from the right side and trimmed with a wide band of satin. The train, attached to the bustle at the back of the dress, is also trimmed at the hem with three rows of pleated frills. The dress is both machine and hand sewn.
History and Provenance
Alfred was a farmer and the couple raised a large family in their small brick and timber cottage, Arlington, in the village of Eglington, north of Bathurst.
Births, deaths, marriages, children or family information
Hannah Prior was born on July 9, 1859 at Killosheil, Roxburgh, NSW.
Do you have any stories or community information associated with this?
Today, Kelso is a suburb of Bathurst, New South Wales. It was the original European settlement in the Bathurst area, being established on the eastern banks of the Macquarie River in 1816. The original 10 farmers of the area comprised five men who were born in the colony and five immigrants. They were granted 50 acres (20 ha) each.
The discovery of gold in the Bathurst area initiated the first gold rush in Australia and turned Bathurst/Kelso into a thriving town in the 1860s. By 1862, about 5,000 people lived in the area.
Holy Trinity Church, where Hannah and Alfred Prior were married, was buit between 1830 and 1835 and was the first permanent church west of the Blue Mountains. It was built to serve the needs of the Anglican parish and played a significant role in the early days of settlement west of the Great Dividing Range. The cemetary houses the remains of many pioneers of the area. The rectory is an excellent example of the architecture of Edmund Blackett, the chief colonial ecclesiastical architect.
How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?
Women's fashions changed rapidly throughout this time, and fashion news was disseminated through a wide variety of fashion magazines and 'ladies pages' in newspapers, which featured engravings and coloured fashion plates of the latest European fashions. Hannah Palser Prior may have had her dress based on one of these designs. Alternatively, the dressmaker may have used one of the mass-produced, pre-cut paper patterns readily available at the time. The Butterick Publishing Co and McCalls were distributing a great variety of paper patterns worldwide. In Australia, Madame Weigel was also selling paper patterns based on American models, and many women's magazines included a 'free' paper pattern. This opened up the world of fashionable dress to a wide range of middle and working class people in city and country.
Hannah Palser Prior's dress is almost entirely sewn using a lockstitch machine (while most sewing machines were imported, an Australian-made lockstitch machine was available at this time). The rows of gauging, or shirring, across the front of her dress have all been machine sewn, but the whole panel has then been carefully hand sewn to the fabric of the skirt. Another invention, the kilting machine, popularised the use of bands of kiltings, or knife pleats, as seen on the hem of the skirt.
The complicated cut and construction of this dress, with its slim-fitting bodice and detailed trimmings, suggest the work of a professional dressmaker. At this time the services of a large number of dressmakers were available in both towns and cities. Dressmaking was one of the few professions open to the many women who were forced to support themselves. Unfortunately many of them were employed under sweatshop conditions, working long hours in poor conditions for little pay.
This garment has been exhibited
2013: Clothes Encounters exhibition, Powerhouse Museum
Place of origin:
Eglinton near Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia
Hannah Adlam (nee Palser Prior). The dress was passed to Thelma Adlam Murdoch, the youngest girl in the family, and then to her daughter Norah Murdoch Clark who had the gown for approximately eighteen years before she have it to Anne Schofield in 1975.
Hannah Adlam (nee Palser Prior)
Worn by Hannah Palser Prior (1859–1938) when she married Alfred Adlam (1860–1922).
Holy Trinity Church in the village of Kelso, near Bathurst, NSW.
Hannah Adlam (nee Palser Prior)
Trimmings / Decoration
The dress opens down the centre front to the hip and fastening with with eighteen satin covered buttons.
It is trimmed with a detachable spray of wax orange blossom at the front neck.
The long sleeves are set into the armholes with satin piping and are finished with a wide panel of satin ruching at the cuff.
The straight skirt features a wide panel of ruched woollen fabric across the front and is trimmed with three rows of pleating or kilting at the hem.
An asymmetrical wool sash is attached across the front of skirt from the right side and trimmed with a wide band of satin.
The train, attached to the bustle at the back of the dress, is also trimmed at the hem with three rows of pleated frills.
The dress is piped around the head of the sleeves
The assured cut and construction of the dress suggests the work of a skilled dressmaker. Hannah may have had her wedding dress made locally in Bathurst or travelled to Sydney where she could have the dress made at Farmer’s or another large department store. In a letter written a few years earlier Rachel Henning had described the advantages of shopping at Farmer’s:
“The said Farmer’s is a most convenient place. It is an immense establishment divided into departments for everything; you can choose a dress, have the material sent to the dressmaking department, where it is made for you in the best fashion ... ”
‘The Letters of Rachel Henning’, 17 February 1875
- Hand sewn
- Machine sewn
The bodice opens down the centre front to the hip fastening with eighteen satin covered buttons.
Metal hook on inside (R) of collar
Thread loop on outside of collar (L)
- Hook and eye
|Hem circumference||2500 mm|
|Front neck to hem||1310 mm|
|Front waist to hem||920 mm|
|Back neck to hem||1800 mm|
|Back waist to hem||1380 mm|
|Sleeve length||520 mm|
|Neck to sleeve head||150 mm|
|Underarm to underarm||360 mm|
|Convert to inches|
Hem measurement taken by measuring across the front and doubling it. Train not taken into account.
Back waist to hem and neck to hem measurments taken to bottom of train.
Evidence of repairs
Mend on inside of bustle.