This ball gown belonged to Annie White, née Holmes, a society figure whose wedding dress from 1876 is also on display here. Her biographical details are recorded with the wedding dress. The donor of this dress recorded that it had been worn to a ball at Larnachs Castle for the visit of the Duke and Duchess of York in 1902. But no such event took place. The Duke and Duchess visited Dunedin in 1901 and hosted an evening reception at the Agricultural Hall. The Whites were not on the guest list. In any case the style of the gown suggests an earlier date, perhaps the late 1880s or early 1890s. Perhaps it was worn to a ball at the castle before William Larnach’s suicide in 1898, after which his house was sold and its furnishings dispersed.

Like Annie White’s wedding dress, this ball gown is one of the most complex costumes displayed here. It is a two-piece made from silk velvet in black and deep ink blue. The bodice is heavily ornamented with black glass beading on black net. This dominates the central panel and continues around the neckline and in a strap across the upper arms. There is also a narrow black chiffon frill at the neckline and a black silk frill over the armhole. The skirt is a very elaborate arrangement with multiple layers ending in a sweeping train. The central panel is in blue velvet with beaded panels to each side, overlapping the velvet and attached to a black taffeta underskirt. There is a second underskirt beneath this, trimmed with lace. The whole costume was in poor condition with major repairs to the waistband and hemline required to prepare it for display.