Black silk chiffon or georgette loose-fitted evening cape, decorated with a wide border of silvred sequins. Sequins are also used in the body of the cape, either individually or in the shpe of circles. The cape was owned and worn by Doris Mercy Bennett (nee Willmott) [1896-1980], and donated to the Society by her grandaughter.
Doris Mercy Willmott was born in May 1896 in Stamford Hill, London, the eldest of three daughters of Albert and Minnie Willmott. Doris and her siblings (Reg, Hilda and Connie) were educated at home with governesses. The family lived in various parts of north London until the beginning of the First World War, when they moved to Redhill in Surrey.
It was in Redhill that Doris met her future husband, Frederick John (Jack) Bennett. Jack had met Eric Mercy, a cousin of Minnie’s, in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) and visited the Wilmotts with him whilst on leave from France. Although Jack Bennett returned to Melbourne in March 1919, he and Doris continued to correspond and they were engaged in March 1923. She came to Melbourne on her own, and was married in the Congregational Church in Canterbury on 23 December 1923. She was given away by her great-uncle, George Granville Mercy; her bridesmaid was his granddaughter Nancy Mercy.
By 1931 Doris and Jack and their three sons - John Willmott, Winfield Robert Curtis and Peter Reginald Dane - moved to 21 Tooronga Road, Hawthorn but moved back to his father’s home, Therapia, 2 (now 6) Hepburn Street, Auburn, shortly before his father’s death. In 1937, the Bennett family moved back to the United Kingdom, spending the war years in Uxbridge and Torquay. The family returned to Melbourne in October 1946, after the deaths of Doris’ parents. The family lived at 12 Stanhope Grove, Camberwell and 51 The Ridge, Canterbury before Jack died in February 1952.
After this Doris moved to 12 Stanley Grove, Canterbury, her home until c. 1970 when she moved to 25 Corhampton Road, North Balwyn. Her last homes were with her son Robert and family in Victoria Crescent, Mont Albert and at Chatham Lea Hostel, Chatham Road, Canterbury. She died in May 1980 in Princeton Nursing Home, 3 Bellett Street, Camberwell. Doris’ granddaughter, the donor, recalled that she loved shoes, and squashed her feet into elegant shoes that were probably too small, paying the price for this later in life. She remembers watching her grandmother brushing her hair before her dressing table, the brush and comb set, her scent bottles and pin dishes with their silver lids.
(Adapted from notes provided by Sue Barnett, the donor).
The collection of evening clothes owned and worn by Doris Mercy Bennett, of which this item is one, date from the 1930s and may have been purchased in Australia or in the United Kingdom. Each of the items, apart from the evening dress, which has a few minor tears in the lace, is of fine quality and evidences Doris Bennett’s love of glamour and style. While the evening dress and the mantilla are of the same fabric, the two capes might have been worn with the dress as alternative fashion accessories. None of the items has a maker’s mark, however each displays evidence of fine dressmaking skills. It is however probable that the two fitted capes were commercially made.
Inscriptions & Markings