Description
This dress was owned by Wilhelmina Morice, wife of George Morice, who was the Presbyterian Minister at Balclutha from 1879. In the summer of 1885/86 the family was picnicking at the mouth of the Clutha River. George and Wilhelmina were both strong swimmers but got into difficulty in the river. George helped his wife to safety but was himself drowned. She was pregnant at the time and left Otago after the tragedy taking her six children to family in Gisborne. She died there herself soon after the birth of the seventh child, a son. His daughter donated the dress to the Museum in 1984. The dress is less sophisticated than most of the dresses on display. It is all hand-sewn, unlike any of the other dresses from the 1870s and 80s. While there is some very fine sewing evident in the neckline, button-holes and armscye piping, a less sophisticated hand has been at work in subsequent alterations. These may have been to extend the life of the dress once fashions had changed. The fabric is a light summer weight fine silk taffeta in a purple and black check. It is trimmed with a deep purple velvet ribbon; in the simulated yoke and on the sleeve cuffs. The dress is in three parts. The basque bodice is high waisted and fastens centre front with fabric covered buttons. The skirt has a low bustle with a deep frill around the hemline. This is topped by a full apron, which repeats the deep frill from the skirt hem and has curved pinking around its edge. The sleeves have a wide flap, trimmed with the velvet ribbon and edged with a purple fringing. A tighter undersleeve comes in to the wrist. The dress shows significant wear and tear, quite apart from the alterations. Yet there is no fading of the striking purple colour.

 Share