A hoarde of fashion in the country
Some of Queensland's most exquisite dress collections are found in the unlikeliest of places. The Templin House of Fashion is a prime example of this. In a country historical village just outside of Boonah in South East Queensland are around 3000 items of fashion and textiles.
The collection is vast and diverse. It spans the dress and handicrafts of the early European settlers in the area, all the way up to late 20th century fashion. Kickstarted by local donations, the collection is now an important slice of Queensland's fashion heritage, cared for by a devoted team of volunteers. They helped us to select just five items that connect fashion from the country to the city.
A plumed picture
Until the late 1960s, hats were a vital part of men's and women's wardrobes. With few dressmakers and milliners in the local district, dressy items such as this feathered black hat would likely have been purchased in the nearest major towns, such as Brisbane or Toowoomba. Though we can't be certain when it was purchased, this ladies' 'picture hat', featuring a broad straw brim, ostrich feathers, and lace trims, was a popular Edwardian style. It was made at Brisbane's major department store, Finney Isles & Co., who had a large millinery department.
Large hats such as this one often completed the fashionable look of the 'Gibson Girl'; perched atop a loose chignon, its exaggerated height and circumference would have balanced that period's silhouette of petite waist, and voluptuous bust and hips, created by the S-bend corset.
Templin staff recall how hats were once made and sold at Finney Isles & Co.: "The millinery section was on the 5th or 6th floor of the building and the customer would go in and choose a blank. From there, the milliners would create a hat to the customer’s specifications."
Party at the Palace
In 1964, the wife of the Australian Wool Secretary in London, Mrs Nell Pownall, wore an iridescent magenta shantung silk dress and silver court shoes to a Buckingham Palace garden party. No doubt the dress was very carefully selected for the occasion. Pictured above, it features tasteful hand-beaded embellishments in a Guipure lace motif, placed on the sleeve hems and in two prominent strips down the front of the skirt. The party invitation and its envelope, parking voucher, and parking instructions for Buckingham Palace are other mementos of this treasured memory.
Also fit for an occasion of regal formality is the tailcoat on the left. Worn with a white bow tie, waistcoat, and dinner shirt with starched wing-collar and studs for fastening, it represents the highest level of formal mens evening wear known as 'White Tie'. The dress coat and trousers were constructed from fine black wool, and the label reads 'Rothwells / Brisbane / Coolangatta'.
Rothwells was a well-known Brisbane men's clothing manufacturer and retailer that sold both ready-to-wear and hand-finished tailored suits. They had a large premises in Brisbane's CBD in the late 19th century and went from strength to strength for a large part of the 20th century, up until their scandalous collapse in 1988. The successful men's outfitters ended as a failed merchant bank.
Both of these garments belong to ‘The Joyce Collection’, donated by Templin resident Jan Joyce, the daughter of Mrs Nell Pownall (wearer of the magenta dress). The suit belonged to De Burgh (Burgo) Joyce, Jan's father-in-law. The Joyce family are prominent members of the Templin community, having settled at a 10,000 acre property between Beaudesert and Boonah Shires, ‘The Overflow’, in the 1930s.
This maternity dress, made by Brisbane dressmaker Ivy Wallace in 1963, is another item that belongs to Templin's Joyce family Collection. Ivy Wallace had premises in the Rex Arcade in Queen Street, Fortitude Valley. The Swiss cotton shift dress features a bold floral print in an autumnal 1960s colour palette of burnt oranges and browns. Jan Joyce shared the dress with her sister Mrs Barbara Schmidt.
It's unusual to find a maternity dress in a fashion collection. Up until the latter part of the 20th century, pregnancy was generally kept very discreet under modest clothing, and in fact, in the early 20th century, specially designed corsets and girdles were worn to conceal a pregnant belly. The simple smock design of this dress would have comfortably accommodated a changing shape. A prominent pocket hints at its practicality.
Not much is recorded about Ivy Wallace, but we do know that she worked for Brisbane department store Allan & Stark in the 1910s and 1920s, and that she had made children's clothes for some charity fashion events around Brisbane in the mid-20th century.
Bridal sleeves stripped bare
Of course, Brisbane was not the only source of fashion for the Templin community. This wedding dress was made by Sydney dressmaker Germaine Masurier of ‘The Block' in George Street. It was worn by Alison Joyce in 1934, pictured on the left, when she married Burgo Joyce. In a style typical of 1930s, the sleeves are exaggerated, in this case with the support of tulle to create a puff. Ivory silk has been cut along the bias to create the elegant draped silhouette and cowl neck. The v-shaped seam on the blouse front is mirrored by the v-shape of the back neckline, which is finished with covered buttons and a sash.
Having photographs of the dress in its original state is a boon to historians, as it helps to illuminate any subsequent alterations. Templin staff explain the curious difference between the sleeves in the wedding photo, and the ones in the dress on display: "As can be seen in the photograph, the gown originally was made with long close fitting sleeves, but as was the custom, at some stage after the wedding the sleeves were cut off to make an evening gown."
The wearer's repurposing of her wedding dress highlights the practical approach to fashion that was common in this period. Templin staff add that "The train that is not in our collection was originally worn by the bride’s mother when she was presented at court."
'Trousseau', or the garments associated with a wedding, are popular keepsakes. They are not only treasured for sentimental reasons; they are often of an exceptionally high quality, and represent a considerable expense for the bride's family. These two examples of fine silk undergarments are part of Alison Joyce's trousseau, and would have been part of a number of garments that accompanied her for her wedding, honeymoon and married years.
The silk camisole on the left has been delicately embroidered using a very fine silk thread and a time-consuming drawn-thread technique to create the floral design. It's finished with cream silk ribbons, worn over the shoulders. The top right of this image shows a detail of the bobbin lace that borders the hem of a pair of cream bloomers. The love-heart design is both eye-catching and on-theme.
Directly underneath are three strips of this lace pattern replicated for the Templin Museum by a very skilled local lace-maker. Their connections to talented craftspeople in the district is what makes Templin House of Fashion a particularly rich resource for dress historians. Apparently, it was an extremely laborious process to produce the lace: "we found that to produce an inch (2.5cm) of this bobbin lace took approximately one and a half hours." It stands to reason that these undergarments were retained by the Joyce family.
Published in Issue 9, on February 25, 2014.