This full-length late 1930s evening dress is made from a blue synthetic taffeta. It is fitted to the waist but then flows out into a very full circular skirt (great for dancing), with long curving seams running from the collar to the hem. It has a Mandarin collar, which fastens at the throat with two circular buttons encrusted with diamantes. There is an opening below the buttons running down to a floral decoration in multi-coloured bands of taffeta at the bust. The same colours – stripes of red, white, blue, black and silver – are used in the yoke of the bodice, almost like a shortened vest that runs from the waistline to the collar at back and from the armscye to the collar at the front. The short sleeves are extravagantly puffed with deep pleats at the shoulder and smaller ones underneath.

This dress is believed to have been worn for a ball to mark the coronation of King George VI in May 1937. It belonged to Muriel Elizabeth (Betty) Gray (later Webster). Betty was born in Lawrence in 1914, the youngest in a family of five. She was Dux of the Lawrence Area School in 1930 and went on to teachers Training College in Dunedin at the age of sixteen. As a young teacher in the 1930s she was a smart dresser, following fashions as well as her budget would allow. After posts at the Tuapeka Creek, Taieri and Maheno schools, Betty became the last teacher at Waitahuna West. There she met her husband, Jack Webster, a farmer 24 years her senior. They married in 1940 and had four children, settling at Weston in North Otago. Betty was always a voracious reader and an independent thinker with a strong sense of social justice. Her grandchildren thought she was ‘cool’ for displaying a Greenpeace sticker on her car. She died in 1994 aged 79.
Production Date
Late 1930s
1,470 (h) x 555 (w) x 420 (d) mm (on mannequin)