Historical information

Three generations of women are represented in this apron. The linen used was woven by Olga's great-grandmother Efstathia in the late nineteenth century with flax grown on the island of Ithaca. Olga's mother Toula Raftopoulos added the whitework around 1908 at age 16 - the first piece of lacework she made on her own - and embroidered her initials on the front. Olga embellished the apron with coloured embroidery around 1950 at age 20.

Olga Maria Black was born in Melbourne in 1930, the daughter of Ithacan migrants Constantine and Toula Mavrokefalos.

Constantine first emigrated to Australia in 1902, returning to Greece circa 1912-13 to serve his home country in the Balkan Wars. Toula's family had left Ithaca for Romania when she was only six months old, but she happened to be visiting the island at the very time that Constantine arrived, fresh from the war. Within three weeks they were married, and when Constantine returned to Melbourne in 1914 his new bride came with him.

Constantine had trained as an accountant, but his qualifications were not recognised in Australia. Changing his surname to the Anglicised "Black", he started off working in his older brother Dionysios's cafés before going into business on his own. In 1917 he opened the Paris Residential Café at 54-56 Swanston Street, which offered both dining and accommodation. The business saw some years of success, but did not survive the Great Depression. Constantine died in 1944.

Olga's mother Toula learned to sew as a child, while growing up in the Romanian village of Brila. She developed her skills making lace and embroidering items for her trousseau. Some of the linen she embroidered had been woven from flax on Ithaca by her own grandmother, Efstathia. During the Depression, when money was scarce, Toula embroidered at home, doing work for a factory in Flinders Lane. Using a cotton reel, a threepence and a sixpence she created and embroidered designs on hundreds of blouses. Olga spent her preschool days sitting at the table where her mother worked. Toula would involve Olga by allowing her to help choose the colour combinations. Toula lived with Olga in Brighton until her death in 1976.

Olga inherited her mother's sewing skills. She re-invented some of Toula’s trousseau nightdresses and skilfully altered other clothing, making dresses which she wore around Brighton for many years.

Physical description

Cream linen embroidered half apron. White lace along hem, along with white embroidered initials, "T.P." Coloured floral and abstract embroidery along sides in red, black, blue and green.