Historical information

This chemise is one of several linen and clothing items that were made and belonged to Mrs. Eliza Towns and donated to Flagstaff Hill Maritime Museum and Village.
Eliza was born Eliza Gould in 1857 in South Melbourne (Emerald Hill) and in 1879 married Charles Towns. In the early 1880's they moved to Nhill in western Victoria and remained there for the rest of their married life. Charles was a jeweller and later became an accountant and for many years was involved with the Shire Council, the local show committee (A & P Society), the Hospital Committee and the Board of the local newspaper (the Nhill Free Press). They had three children and lived a life that would be regarded as comfortably "middle class". Eliza probably had a treadle sewing machine and would have made many of her own clothes as well as clothes for her children - adding her own handmade embroidered or crocheted decorative trim.
This chemise is machine sewn by Eliza Towns and she has added pintucks and broderie anglaise lace as a decorative element.

A chemise was usually a sleeveless garment made of linen or cotton (so they could be easily washed) and its shape was much like a modern day nightgown. The name comes from the French word for "shirt" or "shift". Women wore chemises next to the skin (under the corset) to keep stains and odors away from the less washable corset and gown.


This item is an example of the needlework skills of women in the mid to late 19th century - combining machine stitching with hand embroidery to personlise and embellish an item of clothing. It is also significant as an example of a practical solution to the difficulties of needing to regularly hand wash a bulky outer garment or gown in the Victorian era.

Physical description

A white cotton, short sleeved, knee length chemise. The fabric at the front is gathered on a yoke which is decorated with bands of five pintucks alternating with broderie anglaise lace and embroidered strips lined with pink ribbon. A different broderie anglaise design decorates the sleeve edges, neckline and center broderie anglaise strip. The back of the chemise is gathered on to the neckline. There are two bands of pintucks on each sleeve. The fabric around each armhole has been strengthened with another layer of cotton and a length of cotton has been added (from the left shoulder to the hem) to increase the width of chemise.