This lightweight, almost hobble-skirted evening dress is made from a very fine pink silk and comes from just before the First World War. Above the bust line, it is overlaid with machine embroidered net, bordered below by a bead and sequin trim in a double inverted ‘V’ pattern. The left ‘V’ runs down to the waistband, terminating under a self-fabric rosette. There is a matching rosette at the bottom of an asymmetrical panel that adorns the front of the skirt, its right border dotted with clear faceted glass beads in groups of three. The back of the dress is almost a mirror image of the front. It has elbow length sleeves trimmed with two lines of frilled ribbon and there is a matching frilled ribbon edging at the throat. Originally the dress did up at the back with hook and eyes but a later wearer has added domes.

The dress belonged to Marguerita ‘May’ Anderson, the daughter of a North Dunedin fruiterer. May died in 1916 “of a broken heart” according to family stories, after her fiancé was killed at the war. She was just 19. Her older brother had been killed the year before during the Gallipoli landings, one of the first Dunedin casualties of the war. These sad losses stand in counterpoint to May’s dress, worn just a few years earlier. Its delicate and very feminine appearance is symbolic of the light heartedness of pre-war society, soon to be swept away by the carnage of war. Post-war fashion would take a different path, lamenting the lost generation of young men by making ‘boyishness’ the new fashion ideal of the 1920s.
Production Date
Circa 1914
1,190 (h) x 470 (w) x 310 (d) mm (on mannequin)