Dress with accessories, c1820s-40s

Dress with accessories, c1820s-40s

Description

This is a dove-coloured 'going away' dress with shoes and bonnet. The dress was made in the 1820s, then remodelled in about 1840. It is made of silk taffeta and is 132 cm long and 47 cm across at the shoulders. The 'poke' bonnet was made by James Robson Millinery and Lace Depot, England, around 1840, from buckram, a silk lining, and raffia-covered wire. It measures 25 cm x 26 cm x 27 cm. The shoes date from the late 1830s and are made from silk satin with leather soles and kid lining. They measure 23.5 cm x 6.5 cm x 5.0 cm.

Educational value

  • The dress belonged to the Burnett family, who emigrated from England to New Zealand in 1852 - they sailed from London on the clipper barque 'Joseph Fletcher' arriving in Auckland almost three months after their departure.
  • The dress was to be Mary Burnett's 'going away' outfit (an outfit worn by a bride as she leaves her wedding with her new husband) - however, Mary left behind a broken engagement to a clergyman in Northumberland when she emigrated to New Zealand in 1852, and so it was never worn as a 'going away' outfit.
  • The dress was intended to be worn by Mary Burnett - Mary's mother, Barbara Burnett, made the decision to emigrate following the death of her husband, James; Barbara left with four of her children and her mother, Martha Jane Johnson, to join another son who had arrived in New Zealand a few years earlier and settled in Whangärei.
  • The matching bonnet is very similar to one worn by Queen Victoria in 1840 (for her 'going away') - according to family history, the silk shoes were also part of Mary's wedding outfit.
  • The asset exemplifies women's fashion in early Victorian England, and reflects attitudes of the time about women - the poke bonnet was fitted down over the sides of the face, and was intended to shield the wearer from the gaze of strangers; it was a time when women were expected to behave 'respectably'.
  • The dress and bonnet are part of a collection of 19th-century clothing donated to the National Museum, now the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, by the Burnett family in 1982.