Historical information

This evening dress belonged to Clara Johnstone Miller (nee Bell, 1866-1910). Clara was the only daughter of Mr James Bell, a councillor of the Shire of Leigh (today a part of Golden Plains Shire) and owner of Woolbrook Homestead in Teesdale, near Geelong. In 1888, Clara married prominent businessman, racehorse owner, racing identity and pastoralist Septimus Miller (1854-1925). Septimus was the sixth of seven children born to Henry 'Money' Miller and Eliza Miller (nee Mattinson). 'Money' Miller was a well known financier and politician and reputedly one of Australia's wealthiest people in his time. In 1889, Clara and Septimus moved into the house 'Cantala' in Dandenong Road, Caulfield. They had one child, Gwendoline Stewart Miller, who died in 1902 at the age of thirteen of diabetes - a largely untreatable condition at the time (insulin would not be discovered until 1921). Clara died in 1910, aged only 44. Septimus subsequently married Helen (nee Henderson), with whom he had a son, Ronald (1915-1990). The Millers were buried in the Brighton General Cemetery in a large Gothic-style vault. Upon Clara's death, Septimus sent much of her clothing and Gwendoline's to her mother Mary Bell. Some of these items were passed down to two of Clara's nieces, Miss Mary Bell and Mrs Lois Lillies, who donated them to BHS around 1973.

Physical description

A yellow and lime green silk and net evening dress from c.1909. The bodice is constructed of a golden silk satin with an over bodice of a very soft gold net with soft gold and lime green embroidery decorated with flower and bow motif's. The neckline is bateau like in shape with the edge following the flowers of the lace design. The bodice is sleeveless with a loose detached cap that hangs down over the top of the arm with a lace covering. The under fabric of the bodice is shaped and lightly boned but the over lace is looser, nipping in at the waist where it joins the skirt. At the back, the bodice neckline scoops lower than the front with the lace overlay creating a v shape at the centre back. The bodice is secured with hooks and eyes and waist tapes. The skirt is flat fronted and floor length consisting of the same golden yellow silk with soft gold and lime green embroidered net over skirt. The lace net over skirt features larger motifs and greater embellishment towards the bottom of the skirt. The lace over lay also has an edge that follows the design of the lace rather than a straight edge. At the back the underskirt is flat and shaped but the over skirt is lightly gathered and loose hanging. The skirt finishes in a full skirt and a rounded, small train.