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Dress - Afternoon 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 salmon (pale orange pink) corded silk afternoon dress with orange beaded embellishments, consisting of a bodice and skirt from c.1890. The bodice features a high standing collar with triple pleated bone silk chiffon trim along the top line, under the chin. This same chiffon is also secured in two pieces gathered and secured under the collar and and at the waist adding volume over the bust line and partially obscuring the jacket closing. The chiffon is secured at the side into the main fabric of the bodice by the beaded embellishment. The pink seed beads are sewn in lines of five beads one after the other creating a diagonal design that tapers from the shoulder to the waist. The bodice is boned around the front and back and secured down the centre font by nineteen hook and eyes and additional cotton tapes. Further beading details the bottom centre front and base line of the bodice. The shoulders have been repaired with replacement fabric to match, from our records it appears that the repair work was performed in circa 1974 but no record exists of the original shoulder design and if the repair was an exact copy of the original. The repaired shoulders feature a small frill around the shoulder yoke and top of the arm. The sleeve is fitted and three quarter finishing just below the elbow. The base of the sleeve is also trimmed with the pink bead design and bone three pleat chiffon trim. The back of the bodice features shaped panels contouring the jacket neatly in at the waist and then splitting and splaying out over the fullness of the skirt. The skirt appears to have been floor or ankle length held at the waist by a wide waistband. The skirt openings have been altered from the original currently featuring two openings secured by press studs. The skirt is gathered to the waistband at front and back creating fullness. The lower part of the skirt features the same pink bead embellishment and additional beaded flowers and diagonal point edge detail.
Object Registration
clara miller, woolbrook, septimus miller, henry 'money' miller, gwendoline miller, cantala, 1890s fashion, caulfield, brighton general cemetery
Historical information
This afternoon 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.
When Made
Last updated
16 Mar 2020 at 3:31PM