This flowing, romantic wedding costume from 1905 looks like what the ‘Gibson girl’ would have worn at her wedding. An ideal of feminine beauty created by the American illustrator Charles Dana Gibson, she was tall and narrow-waisted yet with an ample bust and hips – the strange S-curve profile that could only be achieved with extensive corseting. Beyond these physical characteristics the Gibson girl was smart, sporty, fashionable and always at ease. No wonder a confident young South Otago woman might aspire to such an image at the turn of the century. The dress has a cotton underskirt but the main fabric is a very fine silk. The skirt is full length, extending to a slight train, and with three tiered ruffles above the hem. The bodice is heavily pouched and is awash with lace, flowing down as a massive ruffle from the ruched yoke, and as cuffs to the voluminous sleeves extending down over the hands.

Mary Gillieson Paterson wore this dress when she married Robert Ayson at the Kaihiku Presbyterian Church in June 1905. She had made the dress herself, with assistance from her mother. The Patersons and Aysons were well-known families in South Otago, representative of the Scottish Presbyterians who had pioneered settlement in the district. Mary and Robert began their married life farming at Finegand, near Balclutha but eventually settled at Middlemarch and raised seven children. Mary is remembered as a very musical woman, playing piano at dances in the district for many years and the organ at the Middlemarch Presbyterian Church. Robert died in 1957 and Mary the following year, aged 77.
Mary Paterson
Mary Paterson
Production Date
1,530 (l) x 620 (w) x 480 (d) mm (on mannequin)