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Dress - Evening dress

From the Collection of Brighton Historical Society First Floor Bayside Arts and Cultural Centre (Old Brighton Town Hall) Corner Carpenter and Wilson Streets Brighton Victoria

A hand and machine sewn cream, pale blue, orange and gold embroidered satin formal dress, the bodice dates from circa 1890. This dress shares a skirt with T0004.3, which dates from circa 1840.

The bodice features a high scoop neckline with gathers at the base of the scoop and directly below where the bodice finishes creating fullness over the bust. The bodice front encloses the bust with a right panel over the top of a left panel and securing with two hook and eye closures over the left shoulder. The panels are secured together with 15 hook and eye closures. The sleeves are set neatly on the true shoulder and are elongated full puffs to just above the elbow. The fullness is created by nine pleats from the top of the shoulder over the back of the shoulder. At the base of the sleeve the fullness is gathered just above the elbow. At the centre back of the bodice are
four inward facing pleats running from the centre neck to the waist. The bodice is secured around the waist with a tape and four hook and eye closures. The bodice is boned around the sides and back of the torso with eight bones.

This bodice is finished at the waist with a pleated cummerbund of the dress fabric that is designed to appear to be a sash with two decorative bows. One front left of centre and one back right of centre.

The skirt secures at the waist with an opening to the left of centre at the back. The skirt gathers tightly at the centre back with a dart on either side. The skirt has a front central panel and the skirt falls to floor length. At the back, the skirt is also floor length. The back of the skirt may have been modified at some time and may have originally finished in a train. It would be more appropriate to the period of the bodice, and the believed use of the dress with a train.
Object Registration
cecilia elizabeth adams, elizabeth emma adams, queen victoria, tower house, woodchester, james smith adams, elizabeth emma mctaggart, sophia charlotte louisa adams, 1890s fashion
Historical information
The donor and family of this gown were long-term Brighton residents, and the gowns were held by them as family heirlooms prior to donation to Brighton Historical Society. Originally owned by Elizabeth Emma Adams and Cecilia Elizabeth Adams, it is believed that the dress was brought to Australia by either a half brother, James Smith Adams, or a younger sister, Sophia Charlotte Louisa Adams (later known as Mother Rose Columba Adams).

Elizabeth and Cecilia were the daughters of James Smith Adams (a squire, 1780-1860) and Elizabeth Emma McTaggart (1793-1843) of Tower House, Woodchester in Gloucester, a property which Elizabeth later inherited. Originally a monastery, Tower House had been converted into a stately home after the Reformation.

According to information originally provided by the donor, the skirt portion of this dress (along with the bodice T0004.3) was made for either Elizabeth or Cecilia to be worn at the young Queen Victoria’s first 'drawing room ball' following the end of court mourning in 1838 for her uncle William IV who died in 1837. In 1838 Cecilia would have been twelve years old and Elizabeth would have been ten years old. It is possible that this dress was worn by one of the girls to this event as it is of appropriate dimensions for a child of that age, although its design is very formal and adult.

Elizabeth was born on 30 June 1828 at Tower House and died on 1 May 1909. She created a scandal when she eloped with her first husband, Thomas Charles Gardiner at the age of 18. The validity of the marriage was later formally investigate and, while it was confirmed as valid, a second church wedding was subsequently held. Thomas died in 1878. Elizabeth subsequently remarried Reverend R. E. Blackwell, but was widowed again by 1889.

Cecilia was born on 17 December 1826 and died in 1902 a spinster recluse in England. At the inquest into Cecelia's death in 1904 it was revealed that she had clearly come from a family of means as her home was filled to the brim with highly valuable goods, many in boxes. She was buried in the family vault at Woodchester.

Elizabeth and Cecilia's sister Sophia converted to Roman Catholicism in 1851 and became a nun, taking the religious name 'Rose Columba'. In 1883 Mother Rose Columba led a group of eight to Australia, answering a call for Dominican sisters to nurse the sick in Adelaide. Upon arrival, she founded St. Dominic's Priory and the Church of Perpetual Adoration in North Adelaide, using her inheritance to build the chapel.

Elizabeth's second son, George Henry Somerset, who inherited the Adams family estate dropped the 'i' in Gardiner and added the maiden name of his grandmother. Therefore, the family name has now become Gardner McTaggart.

These Adams family entries have been updated with information provided by Dr Herbert Gardner McTaggart, great-grandson of George Henry Somerset in April 2016. Mr McTaggart contacted the society after finding our entries online.
When Made
circa 1890 (bodice), circa 1840 (skirt)
Made By
unknown (Maker)
Last updated
11 Aug 2019 at 1:54PM