Full length evening dress in four parts. Undergarments include two items: a basic black silk petticoat and an upper black silk slip, the latter with two bands of ruffles. The lace dress is in two parts: a bodice and a skirt. The black, high-necked bodice is constructed of silk organza to which guipure lace has been extensively applied. The bodice has long puffed sleeves, gathered on the forearm to form a wide band of lace and ribbon at the wrist. The skirt is constructed of the same black fabric with descending bands of gathered black silk ribbon, used as ornamentation. The skirt also features a long train. Apart from the donor information about its provenance, the style of the dress can confidently be dated to the period 1900-1910. The dress was made and worn to civic functions by Mrs Lily Wishart, Mayoress of Kew in 1906-7. Earlier items belonging to William and Lily Wishart entered the collection as early as 2002. The dress was donated by a descendant of a friend of Lily Wishart in 2020. The photograph of the dress and its components attached to the record needed to be digitally enhanced so that details of the dress could be viewed online. In reality, the fabrics of the dress are an intense black. A physical assessment of the dress is included in the condition report.
Lily and William Wishart lived during this period in 'Noranook', Fernhurst grove, Kew. There are numerous contemporary accounts of the social and civic activities of Lily Wishart as mayoress of Kew.
In a description of a 'Mayoral At Home' in the Kew Recreation Hall, a report in The Australasian (10 Aug 1907, p.46) described the event thus:
MAYORAL AT HOME
In the Kew Recreation-hall on Thursday evening the Mayor and Mrs. W. Wishart gave an at home to between two and three hundred guests. ... Prior to the musical programme, the mayor and mayoress held a reception, standing on a dais at one side of the room. Mrs. Wishart was gowned in black glace silk, trimmed with handsome lace applique, and she wore a cream Maltese lace scarf over her shoulders, and held a bouquet of cardinal carnations.' This may be the dress in the collection.
Another interesting and relevant report is an account in The Argus (19 March 1907, p.6):
'WOMEN'S WORK EXHIBITION
The mayoress of Kew (Mrs. W. Wishart) invited the ladies of the district to meet in the mayor's room, town-hall, Kew, at half past 3 o'clock tomorrow afternoon, to consider steps to be taken locally in support of the proposed Exhibition of Women's Work.'
The dress is locally significant as the work of a skilled home-dressmaker in Kew, who was also a leading civic figure in the municipality. One tends to think of amateur dressmakers as women who could not afford to purchase clothes from a retailer. Clearly, 'women's work' and the skills that educated and wealthy women acquired in the period allowed them to fashion their own garments.
Inscriptions & Markings