About this objectAn ivory coloured woollen bodice and skirt, trimmed with various laces, ribbon and braids.
Bodice: a boned bodice with stand collar, full sleeve shirred above the elbow, trimmed around the shoulder with chemical lace, and fine damask silk ribbon. Fastens at the back with 21 brass hooks (two have been replaced with chrome plated steel hooks), 10 hand worked eyes and 12 brass eyes, fastening in 2 layers, with 9 whalebones stiffening the bodice. Five vertical rows of cream silk herringbone stitching at the centre back. The circular yoke and the stand collar are lined with satin, and yoke is trimmed at the front with two braid motifs, with Turks head knotted drops of silk cord falling from them. Matching damask ribbon around the waist, crosses and fastens at the back with a hook and eye. The cuffs fasten with two brass hooks and hand worked eyes, and are trimmed with six rows of satin ribbon and satin rosette at the outer wrist. These have been altered. The centre front is accentuated with gathering, sometimes known as 'Pigeon Front', and is quite roughly hand sewn in places.
Skirt: small waist, opening is at the left side front, the A-line four gored skirt with tape waist band and fastens with 6 brass hooks and 5 hand worked eyes and one brass hook at the top (this has been moved across approx 4 cm). The skirt has a deep flounce around the bottom and there are four sets of three rows each of satin ribbon sewn so as to fall to a point at the centre front. The upper portion of the flounce has been shirred to match the sleeve detail. It has a cotton lining with a matching woollen flounce at the bottom. The back gore goes from narrow at the top to very wide at the bottom hem, creating a bias at the base.
This bridal gown was worn for a society wedding which brought together two pioneering families, the Ewins and the Kinghams, from the Millthorpe district. Margaret Ewin was 27 when she married James Kingham on July 27, 1904. They were married by Archdeacon W. King-Howell at St Matthews Anglican Church, Greghamstown.
The winter wedding in this region required a warmer fabric, hence the wool challis which would have been expensive. It is stylishly decorated with lace and silk ribbon, with a military touch. The "pigeon front" was popularised by the introduction of a new style of corset at the turn of the century that gave the figure an "S" shape. The sleeves, that droop from the shoulder and become more full at the elbow, depart from the puffed "leg of mutton" style of the 1890s, and demonstrate that bridal fashions in rural Australia were in line with those in Britain.
The dress was accessorised with a very long tulle veil which mirrors the style of the skirt with fine rows of tucking around the hem. It has a stylishly modern embroidery pattern in one corner. The bride wore floral blossoms in her hair at the top of her veil and at the front bodice, probably wax blossoms. Her high pearl necklace may have been influenced by Princess Alexandra's penchant for pearl chokers at this time.
There is evidence that the dress has been altered, as it has been let out at the waist and back and silk rosettes have been added to the cuffs. While these alterations may indicate that this gown, like that of many brides, was worn for "best" for many years after the wedding, it is more likely that it was worn by another bride. The unaltered neckline indicates this, because evening dresses of the era usually had more revealing necklines than the high necks of bridal gowns. Whether the dress was worn again by Margaret Ewin or by another bride, the altered garment provides insight into a society in which valuable objects were not disposable.
The importance of the dress is confirmed by the fact that it was kept so carefully and donated to The Golden Memories Museum in Millthorpe in the late 1960s, where a large ancestral community remains. The garment is also of interest because it shows that despite the distance from world fashion centres, bridalwear in rural Australia was up-to-date.