According to our donor records this dress was worn by Christina McClusky to the Guards Ball in Dunedin in 1861. The costume was displayed in the window of local drapers Brown Ewing and Co and may have been made by them as well. No firm data on Christina McLusky or the Guards Ball has been found. Certainly, however, there were military personnel in Dunedin in that year. A detachment of the 70th Regiment of Imperial troops was sent to Dunedin from the North Island in anticipation of possible disorder from the gold rush influx of population. Their services were not needed but as one historian puts it “their officers provided a social cachet eagerly sought by society hostesses”.

Christina’s ball gown is also the dress of a debutante. It has an underskirt in fine white muslin, decorated with bands of horizontal stripes on the skirt. The bodice is lined with fine cotton lawn. The underskirt follows the contour of the overskirt, which is made from organdie with tambour* embroidery to provide decoration. It has the same high waistband as the earlier ball gown but in this case there is a decorative sash in blue taffeta. The bodice is centre front fastening with hook and eyes. It is trimmed at the neck with two sorts of machine lace, pleated blue taffeta ribbon and a black velvet ribbon laced through the topmost frill. The sleeve puffs are similarly trimmed with lace and the black velvet ribbon. This black ribbon seems an unusual feature in a ball gown and may indicate that the family was in a period of mourning. The full skirt is pleated at the waist and has a slight train to the rear. It may well have had a stiffened under petticoat to give added fullness. The floral spray in pink and blue provides a delightful finishing touch.

*a chain stitch embroidery done with a tambour hook
Production Date
Circa 1861