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Evening dress, Australia, 1860-1865

Made by in Australia, Oceania, c 1855.

This garment is an exceptional example of the early use of aniline dyes. Up until the middle of the nineteenth century, almost all dyes were made from natural sources, such as plants, animals, and minerals. In 1856, however, young chemist William Henry Perkin manufactured the first mass produced synthetic dye, mauveine. Mauveine was a combination of aniline (a common extract of coal tar) and other compounds which created a brilliant purple. The colour purple was popularised by French Empress Eug...


Object No.


Object Statement

Dress, shot silk taffetta, Australia, 1860-1865

Physical Description

Evening dress of blue/brown shot silk taffeta with pagoda sleeves, fitted back fastening bodice, gathering at front anchored by ruching above waist. Full skirt gathered from cartridge pleats below waist. The gathering of the bodice and the two tiered, flounced sleeves have been trimmed with a deep blue silk fringing.



470 mm


1430 mm



Australia, Oceania c 1855


Maker unknown. Hand made.

The skirt has been constructed out of seven outer silk panels and four internal lining panels, designed so that the seams do not meet up. Additionally, a centimetre width fold has been sewn on the inside of the front of the skirt (about 1480mm in length), probably to either lift the front of the skirt or to protect it for outdoor wear.

The thread is not uniform throughout, varying from a thick golden thread on the skirt, to a bright blue on the bodice. The hand stitching, for the most part, is very neat and precise.

The gathering on the front of the bodice is made from two panels. The underside of these folds are lined with cream cotton, and not the shot silk taffeta. As this area is not visible when worn, it was probably a conscious cost saving device. The bodice has also been let out with two very minor, centimetre sized slits appearing on either side under the arms.

The garment also features the use of aniline dye. This synthetic dye was first produced by chemist William Henry Perkin in 1856, and were applied to dress materials after 1860.



Donated to the museum by Mrs. K. Dwyer and Mrs. L. Mackley of South Hurtsville in 1985.

Owned by Mrs Emery from Tumut.

The owner received it from her aunt.


Credit Line

Gift of K Dwyer and L Mackey, 1985

Acquisition Date

6 September 1985

Cite this Object


Evening dress, Australia, 1860-1865 2019, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 21 November 2019, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Evening dress, Australia, 1860-1865 |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=21 November 2019 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}


This object record is currently incomplete. Other information may exist in a non-digital form. The Museum continues to update and add new research to collection records.

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