Mary Taylor wore this dress when she married William Orr Watt in South Otago on 28 December 1875. Mary was born at Crieff, Perthshire, Scotland, in 1854. She emigrated to Otago with her widowed mother, a sister and two brothers when she was twelve, arriving on the Caribou in January 1867. Three older brothers were already in Otago. Mary went to work as a domestic servant in the Presbyterian Manse at Stirling, not far from her mother and brothers who settled at Wairuna. From there she met and married a local farmer, William Orr Watt, a stalwart of the Presbyterian Church. They had a large family of four sons and five daughters, but although four of their children were married they produced no grandchildren to carry on the family line. Mary died in 1932 aged 78.

Mary’s mother was a professional dressmaker who had worked on the trousseau of Queen Victoria in 1840. Perhaps she also made her daughter’s wedding dress. It was certainly right up with the fashions of 1875. The skirt’s dropped waistline – hugging the contours of the body from the shoulders to the hips – represented a significant narrowing and lengthening of the female silhouette. This was called the Princess line. The bustle is smaller and almost extends into a train. The ruching and decorative pleating of the skirt, along with the watch pocket, the piping around the armscye of the sleeve and the stand collar are all characteristic of the mid and late 1870s. The main colour is a soft fawn, which contrasts with the dark brown satin of the piping, the sleeve bands and the flounce around the hemline. This is the first of the wedding dresses to use dome fastening instead of hook and eyes. There are obvious signs of later alterations, suggesting that this dress too was worn well after the wedding.
Production Date
1350 (h) x 600 (w) x 600 (d) mm (on mannequin)