Historical information

This item of underclothing, called a "combination" 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.

Combination undergarments combined the chemise and drawers into one garment. The combination is divided, or bifurcated, from the waist to the crutch for easier urinating. This one-piece type of underwear was worn by females from the 1860s and into the early 1900s. The 19th Century garments had front button closures like this one, and those made in the 1900s more often had back closures. Combination underwear was popular because the all-in-one design had far fewer gathers and bulk, making the other clothing look much smoother. Their primary use was to protect clothing from perspiration and because they were made with cotton or linen, were easy to wash. Although they were worn under the corset, next to the skin (and therefore not meant to be seen), they were often decorated with lace and embroidery.

Although these combinations are made with a plain cotton fabric, Eliza Towns has incorporated pin tucks, hand embroidery and crocheted lace to embellish her garment.


The collection of women’s late-19th-century undergarments is an example of clothing that women would include in their wardrobes. The garments add to the study of the evolution of women's fashions and practicality for the early Australian settlers. The careful needlework in these handmade garments and hand-worked lace trims reflect the maker’s dedication to making even serviceable garments beautiful to look at and wear.

Physical description

Women’s white cotton and lace all-In-one combination undergarment. The handmade underwear is a combined chemise and bloomers. It has three buttons in the front and a handmade drawstring cord around the square neckline. It is trimmed with crocheted lace (with a floral design) on the neckline, sleeves and pants. It had pintucks and feather stitching on the bodice and the left and right sides are divided from the waist to the crutch. The back of the garment is plain with a gathered section at the lower back.