This stylish two-piece ‘going away’ outfit was purchased in the United States in 1937. It is reminiscent of the Duchess of Windsor’s famous wedding dress from the previous year, which was the most copied dress of this era. Made from a synthetic crêpe fabric, the dress has a mid-calf length skirt and short sleeves. Its beige colour contrasts nicely with the terracotta of the cape. This is echoed in the floral embellishment at the front centre, underscored by the belt in the same fabric. The square shoulders are pleated, with just a suggestion of padding, a style that would develop further in the war years and endure for the next decade. The deep ‘V’ of the neckline is framed by three pleats, which come together under the floral centrepiece to meet the ruching along the basque line. The cape is decorated with trapunto embroidery. The dress has a side placket with a zip fastener, a new element that became widely used in the 1930s.

The fashionable bride who embarked on her honeymoon in this costume was Esther Denniston. She had worked as a nurse in Britain and Switzerland on her ‘O.E.’ (Overseas Experience) in the mid 1930s, returning to New Zealand via the United States where she acquired the dress. It was added to her trousseau and worn following her marriage to the Dunedin accountant, Bill McInnes, in March 1939. Esther was born in Lower Hutt but had strong Dunedin connections and the wedding was held at St Johns in Roslyn. During the war Esther despatched regular collections of food and clothing to London where an old friend ran an orphanage in the heavily bombed docklands area. In 1951 she took her three children on an overseas tour for six months, revisiting her old haunts. Following the death of her husband in 1966, Esther returned to nursing. She spent several years in Sydney training in naturopathy and osteopathy before retiring in Waverley. She died in 1989 aged 82.
Production Date
Circa 1937
Dress: 1,020 (h) x 470 (w) x 290 (d) mm (on mannequin)
Cape: 590 (h) x 540 (w) x 280 (d) mm (on mannequin)
Belt: 860 (l) x 25 (w) mm