Historical information

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

Physical description

A black and mint green wool, velvet, lace and silk dress from circa 1882. The bodice features a wired, standing collar, finishing just under the chin and open at the front of the throat. On either side at the front of the throat it features long black lace ties with black jet bead fringe. The centre front of the dress from the neckline to the base of the skirt features an insert panel of mint green corded silk. The silk is gathered and the neckline and waist and overlaid a panel of gathered lacy net. Inserted into the seam at either side of this panel at the waist are two velvet ties. The dress secures closed with eight black buttons and one hook and eye down the right side of the mint panel to mid thigh. The edges of the collar and black front panels are finished with a looped ribbon trim. The remainder of the dress is made of a black wool fabric woven a checkered pattern of larger and looser threads and smaller and tighter threads creating a seersucker like pattern. The bodice features a natural shoulder line and an Amadis sleeve of full cut gathered to the bodice at the shoulder and finishing at the elbow with a large black lace flounce. The front panels of the dress are flat and shaped neatly to the body from neck to hip line and gently out to create the Victorian silhouette. On the back of each shoulder the dress features a leaf like, small jet beaded embellishment with multiple long loops of jet beads falling down the back to the waist. Underneath this embellishment is a pleated black ribbon that runs from the shoulder to the back of the pelvis. Over the pelvis are another two jet beaded embellishments of a floral design with two tassels. The skirt is full and pleated in under this embellishment and fulls to the floor with a small train. The base of the dress is finished with a ruched band of the main dress fabric.