This wedding costume is an interesting example of the tailor-made suit, the height of fashion for young working women in the Edwardian era, adapted here to a more ceremonial occasion. These suits were worn with elaborate, high-necked blouses although the blouse worn with this one has unfortunately not survived. The smart lines of the suit are softened here with the cream colour of the wool and the lace, ribbon and braid embellishments (some now missing) that adorn both skirt and jacket. The skirt is gored to provide fullness; working women could not have their movement restricted by straight or hobble skirts. The whole is lined with cotton and there is a line of velvet around the hem of the skirt. The shoulders are slightly padded – decoratively quilted on the inside – in an intriguing foretaste of the square-shoulder suits that would become so popular a generation later.

Catherine Abbott wore this suit when she married John Collins at St Matthew’s church in Stafford Street, Dunedin in October 1911. Catherine’s father was a storeman, her groom a boot maker. Her marriage entry records no occupation against her name but girls of her social background usually worked before marriage. Catherine probably walked to and from her home in Serpentine Ave to a central city workplace or perhaps rode on the trams or cable cars. Such everyday, independent travel was a great advance in personal freedom for young women of the early twentieth century. The tailor-made suit is symbolic of this change and Catherine’s choice of wedding costume seems significant. John Collins ran his own business in George Street and he and Catherine were able to build a villa in St Kilda where they raised three daughters. Catherine died there in 1950 aged 69.
Production Date
Circa 1911
1,460 (h) x 600 (w) x 450 (d) mm (on mannequin)