Historical information

This dress is a 'Dolly Varden' or 'shepherdess" style costume worn by Ida Annie Wallace (1890-1976) on a sea voyage to China accompanying her parents in 1911. The BHS has a photo of Ida wearing this dress when she was a guest at a dance for young people given by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne (possibly T. J. Davey). This party may have been held on the ship or it may have been a seperate event.

This style dress was a popular choice for fancy dress in the late 1890s and early 1900s. The style is named after the character Dolly Varden in Charles Dickens, 'Barnaby Rudge' 1841. Around 1872, Dolly Varden-inspired costumes and paraphernalia were very a popular craze.

Family information states that the silk for this dress was purchased by Ida and Marjorie's grandfather's sister (great aunt) in England circa 1840. The dress was donated by Marjorie Wallace (1901-1999), Ida's sister. Marjorie did not accompany the family to China, but stayed home with a governess. Marjorie lived in Brighton between 1923 and circa 1950 and attended Firbank Church of England Girls Grammar School.

Physical description

A dress consisting of bodice (.1) and skirt (.2). The bodice is made from beige silk with sprays of red and blue flowers and originally laced down the centre front with pink ribbon. The lower part of the bodice is modelled on a late 18th century polonaise design. The bodice is boned and features waist tapes. The elbow length sleeves are finished with beige hand made Maltese lace featuring Maltese crosses. The mid calf length skirt is made from pale pink silk which has been quilted and lined to create a stiffened form. Also with the dress is a piece of scrap floral fabric (.3) that is the same as the bodice fabric.