Historical information

This nightgown 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 nightgown is machine sewn by Eliza Towns and she has added a detailed design of pintucks and broderie anglaise lace to the front yoke and cuffs as a decorative element.

The 1800's bought a shift in attitude towards modesty as the Victorian era progressed and by the mid to late 1800's it had become more acceptable ladies to wear simple, modest nightgowns. They tended to have a very loose fit and were usually made of linen, cotton or flannel, which had the advantage of providing warmth and also being easy to wash - a necessity for a garment worn next to the skin. Although the basic design of the nightgown was fairly simple, the wearer was free to add various types of trim e.g. lace, crochet, pintucks, embroidery etc.


This item is an example of the needlework skills of women in the late 19th century - combining machine stitching with hand embroidery to personalise and embellish a practical item of clothing. It is also significant as an example of a practical solution to the difficulties that women of this era faced with regard to the washing of clothes and household linens.

Physical description

Lady's long, white, cotton nightgown with a V shaped bodice decorated with bands of nine pintucks alternating with strips of broderie anglaise lined with pink ribbon. The opening front placket and neckline are bordered with a simpler broderie anglaise lace. The long sleeves are gathered into cuffs with a matching V shape, pintuck and broderie anglaise design. The front placket fastens with three cream buttons although one is missing. The back of the nightgown has gathered fabric on a plain, narrow V shape yoke. A narrow gusset has been added to the both sides at the bottom of the nightgown.

Inscriptions & markings