This full-length apple green silk evening gown exemplifies elements of early 1920s fashion. It has the characteristic dropped waist and trains at each shoulder, reminiscent of medieval costume yet with its geometric shape and decorative motifs also distinctly ‘modern’. The thin shoulder straps and off-the-shoulder sleeves emphasise slender shoulders and arms while the lack of embellishment on the bodice and the strong vertical lines of the skirt and trains would have showcased the slender athletic figure that was so popular in this era. There are four different fabrics in the dress: the apple green silk, silver mesh net, green crêpe to reinforce the trains, and a silk or rayon lining.

The dress belonged to Eleanor (Nell) Preston born at Longlands station in the Maniototo in 1897. The Prestons were pioneering sheep farmers from Yorkshire and Nell grew up on Haldon sheep station in the Mackenzie Country (summers) and at Goodwood in North Otago (winters). At 16 she went to help her brother on the Glen Lyon station at the head of Lake Ohau, cooking for the shearers who worked there. She later began her training as a nurse but this was cut short when she was required to look after her ailing mother. In 1924 Nell married Bruce Todd. The couple had five children and farmed Glenshee in the Maniototo, a property that later became famous for the fashion collection of its subsequent owner Eden Hore. Nell’s dress was apparently her first real formal dress, possibly worn to a family wedding. She died in Dunedin in 1970 aged 74.
Production Date
Circa 1920
1,310 (h) x 410 (w) x 280 (d) mm