This fabulous two-piece evening dress begins our fashion chronology in fine style. It epitomises the heavy elaboration that continued into the new Edwardian age after the death of Queen Victoria in 1901. The dark colour is atypical of the new era but reflects the status of its wearer as a mature widow. The elaborate decoration is more representative of Edwardian fashion, combining the very fine black silk with ecru-coloured lace and black velvet ribbon in a complex concoction of trims, embroidered decorations and embellishments. It is gathered at the waist and bust to create the pigeon-breasted profile that was characteristic of the 1900s. The long sweeping train makes spectacular use of the inverted fan motif worked in velvet ribbon all around the circumference of the skirt.

This costume belonged to Mary Ann Hudson (née Riley), one of Dunedin’s society matrons in the early twentieth century. Another of her dresses begins the ‘day dress’ display sequence of this exhibition. Mary Ann enjoyed a prosperous old age in contrast to the struggles of her early life. She had been a mainstay of the rise of her husband Richard’s biscuit-making business from the 1860s and after his death in 1903, Mary Ann continued to guide her sons who carried “Hudsons” on with equal success. Richard had invested heavily in land, including the extensive Hudson Block in Wakari, which provided a healthy income for Mary Ann. Her wealth, as well as her refined taste, is evident in this dress.
Production Date
Circa 1900
1520x440x270mm (on mannequin)
Depth with train extended 880mm