Historical information

Doris Mercy Willmott was born in May 1896 in Stamford Hill, London, the eldest of three daughters of Albert and Minnie Willmott. 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.

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. She died in May 1980 in Princeton Nursing Home, 3 Bellett Street, Camberwell.
(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.

Physical description

Long black lace, floor-length evening dress extending to a short train at the back. The dress has a belt at the waist that is joined by two white metal clasps studded with diamentes. With the dress there is also a matching lace square (2017.00921) that might have been used as a mantilla or as a shawl. The dress was owned and worn by Doris Mercy Bennett (nee Willmott) [1896-1980], and donated to the Society by her grandaughter.