Historical information

This gown, one of two similar items in the collection belonged to one of the Ward Cole sisters, Miss Margaret Morison Ward Cole or Miss Agnes Bruce Ward Cole, daughters of George Ward Cole. 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 sub divided and later demolished.

Physical description

A black and yellow velvet, wool, lace and silk dress from circa 1882. The bodice features a yellow silk, black lace and black velvet collar finishing high on the neck just below the chin finished with a black lace ruffle. The collar has a flap across the front of the throat that attaches at the side with a V-shaped baseline that contributes to concealing the fastenings of the bodice. The dress features a gathered central panel of black lace covered lemon silk, which falls from the neckline to the floor. At either side of this panel are matching panels of black velvet. The remainder of the dress and sleeves are made of black wool featuring a self-striped and spotted pattern. The dress fastens down the centre front with concealed black buttons hidden underneath the right velvet panel. The head of the Amadis sleeve sits on the natural shoulder line and finishes tightly at the elbow. The volume of the sleeve is created by ten pleats at the head of the shoulder, sewn to the bodice and is gathered at the elbow. The sleeve is finished with a black velvet ribbon with a bow and a black lace frill. The base of the dress is finished with a ruffle of the black dress wool. The dress features a small train. The dress is boned at the back waist and features an inset panel just below the waist of gathered fabric which forms the train.