Historical information

A bodice belonging to the family of George Ward Cole in the late 1800s. George Ward Cole was an early member of the Victorian Parliament and the family featured prominently in Melbourne Society in their time. They established a substantial home known as “St Ninians” at 10 Miller Street in 1841. The family reportedly entertained Melbourne’s first Royal visitor The Duke Of Edinburgh, Queen Victoria’s second son, at St Ninians in 1867. In later years St Ninians was subsequently subdivided and later demolished.

Physical description

A hand sewn cream silk satin evening bodice from c.1865. This bodice features a very low, wide scooped neckline with a set in sleeve and four small pleats across the head of the shoulder. The elbow length, straight fitted sleeves are trimmed with a pleated ruffle that extends around the arm finishing at the elbow crease at the inside arm and tapering to mid forearm length at the back. The fitted bodice, lined with waxed linen, fastens down the centre front with eight covered buttons of the bodice fabric. The front two panels wrap around the sides of the bodice to meet another series of panels creating a princess line with a delineated central spine. The waist position is just below the natural waist at the sides, tapering to an elongated front covering the belly. From the sides towards the back it curves up to the natural waistline and then down again to a central point. The bodice is decorated with strips of the same fabric, which has been tucked, pleated and padded to create ruching. The ruching edge has a multi coloured thread, suggestive of rosettes, on both sides. In the front of the bodice, a strip runs down the centre front, concealing the buttonholes, and finishing at the elongated point. It then goes up the bodice over the bust line where it meets the neckline. It follows the neckline around the nape of the neck and back down the front over the bust line to the centre front. More strips run around the base of the fitted sleeve near the elbow above the ruffle. The rosette like coloured thread finishes the base of the ruffle.