This dress belonged to Janet Talboys, nee Robertson. She was born at Clark’s Flat, Tuapeka, to pioneer settlers Peter and Janet Robertson on 6 February 1860. Her father delivered her with no midwife or doctor available in the sparsely populated pre-gold rush Otago interior. She married William Talboys, a Central Otago businessman, in 1880 and settled in Cromwell. They had five sons and a daughter. William did well in business and was able to retire early, moving the family to Dunedin in the 1890s. The couple were active philanthropists, associated with St Matthews Anglican church for many years. Janet died in 1937, aged 77.

Her moss green dress is an excellent example of an1890s two-piece costume. It has many of the design features that mark this out from earlier decades. The skirt, for example, is relatively simple. It is slightly gored at the front and gathered just a little to the back. The bustle has finally disappeared and the skirt has a tailored, more practical shape. All of the elaboration is in the bodice instead. The central panel has a complicated array of decorative features. There is a layer of shot silk, covered by chiffon, then a layer of black lace and ribbed black net. Multi-coloured glass beading, prepared as a braid, provides further ornamentation; across the central panel, around the collar and down the front extending off the waist almost like a pair of tassels. The sleeves are in the leg-of-mutton style, with substantial shoulder puffs held out by a stiffened interlining. The extravagant shot silk bow at the cuff and the complicated array of lace, chiffon and box pleated silk around the stand collar are replicas. The originals had rotted away, leaving just enough fragments for our conservators to make exact copies from new fabric.