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.
- 1869 'Classified Advertising.', The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933), 31 March, p. 1, viewed 7 September, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1304916
- 1880 'Some Dresses at the Birthday Ball.', The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933), 19 June, p. 3, viewed 7 September, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article898131
- 1881 'The Brisbane Courier.', The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933), 24 August, p. 2, viewed 7 September, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article910806
- 1884 'Ladies Column.', The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939), 11 October, p. 587, viewed 7 September, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article23975603
- 1885 'Classified Advertising.', The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933), 25 February, p. 4, viewed 7 September, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3439498
- 1887 '"FIGARO'S" AT HOME.', Queensland Figaro and Punch (Brisbane, Qld. : 1885 - 1889), 27 August, p. 1 Supplement: THE LADY SUPPLEMENT TO QUEENSLAND FIGARO, viewed 7 September, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article84112928
- 1887 'ORANGE BLOSSOMS.', Queensland Figaro and Punch (Brisbane, Qld. : 1885 - 1889), 9 April, p. 18 Supplement: THE LADY SUPPLEMENT TO QUEENSLAND FIGARO, viewed 7 September, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8412059
- 1898 'Classified Advertising.', The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933), 20 December, p. 8, viewed 7 September, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3684706
- 1898 'IPSWICH TECHNICAL COLLEGE.', Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald & General Advertiser (Qld. : 1861 - 1908), 26 November, p. 4, viewed 7 September, 2013, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article123595442
- Australian Made: 100 Years of Fashion. Radio National. http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/bydesign/australian-made-100-years-of-fashion/3045760
- Marendy, Michael. "Walker, Janet (1850–1940)", Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/walker-janet-13233/text6947, accessed 7 September 2013.
- National Gallery of Victoria. Australian Made: 100 Years of Fashion. http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/whats-on/exhibitions/exhibitions/australian-made
Published in Issue 2, on September 10, 2013.