Miss Scott

Miss Scott was one of the leading names in Queensland dressmaking, creating exquisite gowns for society ladies in late Victorian Brisbane.

Queen Street in Brisbane, ca. 1887John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg: 258377

Who: Miss Margaret Scott.

What: Highly regarded dressmaker and milliner, catering to a Brisbane society clientele.

When: Miss Scott launched her dressmaking business in the late 1860s. She was succeeded by Miss M’Cloy in 1887, who closed her business in 1898.

Where: The Miss Scott showroom and workshop was located at the corner of Queen and Albert Streets in Brisbane.

Why: Miss Scott was a major name in Australian dressmaking and millinery, and was seen as something of an institution for Brisbane society ladies in the late 19th century. Along with Queensland contemporaries Miss Caldwell and Mrs Janet Walker, she was considered to be one of the leading dressmakers of her time, producing one-off, made-to-measure finery for her local clientele.

Catering to the upper-end of the market, Scott was known for her bridal wear and draped gowns that used fine imported fabrics, such as China silks. Her work was described as having a “’French’ taste and finish” 1, having a refined sensibility, and delicate application of decorative touches such as embroidery, ribbon and lace. The silhouettes she produced were typical of late Victorian European fashion, featuring stiff corseted bodices, and voluminous skirts achieved through bustles, trains, pleats and flounces. She was recognised for her use of small crinolines, as opposed to the full crinolines that had declined in fashionability towards the end of the 19th century. She was also known to use stiff muslin fabric sewn to the interior of a box-pleated skirt to create volume without the use of stiffened undergarments. In addition to womenswear, she produced some children’s clothing.

Miss Scott operated a successful business in Queen Street for close to 20 years, employing a small team of dressmakers and apprentices in a reportedly well-lit and ventilated workshop and showroom, a forerunner to the modern fashion boutique. Though her work relied on a lot of hand-finishing, her workrooms made use of sewing machines, expensive items that had only been introduced to Australia in the 1850s.

She dressed many women for important Queensland society occasions, such as the Queen’s Birthday ball. Newspaper reports of such events noted that her locally-produced dress designs, along with those of Finney Isles and Co, were often favoured over imported designs. Though little remains of her work, and not much is known about this dressmaker, an 1878 Miss Scott Afternoon dress is held by the National Gallery of Victoria, and features the first known use of a dressmaker’s label in Australia. This dress was featured in the significant exhibition Australian Made: 100 Years of Fashion, curated by Laura Jocic and held at the NGV in 2010.

In 1887, Miss Scott was succeeded by Miss M’Cloy, a dressmaker who had formerly run workrooms at Doonan & Hanley and Finney Isles & Co, Maryborough. M’Cloy moved her business to Adelaide St and retired in 1898, selling both the premises and her entire stock. M’Cloy was also considered an influential figure in Queensland fashion, not least for her subsequent career as a teacher of dressmaking, running courses at the Brisbane, Ipswich, Sandgate and South Brisbane Technical Colleges variously for at least a decade.

Miss Scott, Afternoon dress, ca.1878. Silk, cotton, metal, baleen. Gift of Mr J. D. Oswald, 1970
Miss Scott, Afternoon dress, ca.1878. Silk, cotton, metal, baleen. Gift of Mr J. D. Oswald, 1970National Gallery of Victoria
Miss Scott, Afternoon dress, ca.1878. Silk, cotton, metal, baleen. Gift of Mr J. D. Oswald, 1970
Miss Scott, Afternoon dress, ca.1878. Silk, cotton, metal, baleen. Gift of Mr J. D. Oswald, 1970National Gallery of Victoria
Miss Scott Classified Advert, 1869
Miss Scott Classified Advert, 1869 The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933), 31 March, p. 1
Ladies Column, 1884
Ladies Column, 1884The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939), 11 October, p. 587
1 Queensland Figaro and Punch, 1887
The Fashion Archives' Reading List:
TFA Also Recommends...

 

Published in , on September 10, 2013.