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Green and floral brocade open-front robe with "en fourreau" back


Green and floral brocade open-front robe with "en fourreau" back

Object information


It is likely that this dress was made in the late 1730s, early 1740s. It appears to have been altered in the 1770s and again in the 1920s when it was worn to a fancy dress ball (2005.0005.1008).

Made from green and floral silk brocade, the dress could be described as an open-front robe with an en fourreau style back. The open skirt would have once revealed a matching or contrasting petticoat. The en fourreau construction refers to the centre-back part of the bodice where an arrangement of pleats would have lain flat against the back of the body and run through the waistline into the skirt.

Features of the original dress style are now absent, but characteristics of the fabric identify it as English woven silk. Large, bold, scrolling floral and leaf designs were popular in the first half of the 18th century and the English favoured more naturalistic, less stylised patterns than those created by the French (who were then the world leaders in fashion and textiles).

The large-scale, brightly coloured flowers and foliage are of a style similar to the designs being created by London, Spitalfields, silk designer, Anna Maria Garthwaite who was one of the few women working in the design industry at this time. Garthwaite was prolific, creating over 1000 designs inspired by botanical specimens.

It is likely the dress, (along with several other late eighteenth and early nineteenth century dresses within the Springfield-Faithfull family collection) was brought to Australia by the Deane family in 1838. Ann Deane, her son Robert, daughters Ann and Mary and nephew Edgar migrated from Devonshire to Sydney residing there until 1844 when Mary married William Pitt Faithfull, founder of Springfield sheep station.

By this time, the dress was over 100 years old and was probably passed down through the family from Mary's great grandmother. Details of the original owner's life are unknown but the dress underwent several changes during the eighteenth century. This was a common practice for a garment made from such valuable fabric, and entirely appropriate as fashions changed relatively slowly up until the final decades of the century.

Two buttons at the back of the bodice and a remnant of textile cord inside the skirt indicate the dress was converted to a robe à la polonaise, a style popular during the 1770s. This style allowed for the overskirt part of a dress to be lifted by ties to reveal more of the petticoat. The silk of the dress would have been pulled up by ties attached to the two bodice buttons, creating volume at the hips and the rear of the dress.

It is possible the original owner continued to wear the updated style several decades later. Or perhaps she passed it down to her daughter who would have worn it when visiting acquaintances or attending an afternoon tea.

Almost 200 years later it was worn again by a descendent, Miss Clarice Anderson-Faithfull, granddaughter of Mary Faithfull, mistress of Springfield. In March 1929, Clarice, along with Miss Margaret Fairfax, Miss Elaine de Chair (daughter of the Governor of New South Wales) and other young women, well-known among Sydney society dressed in the gowns of their ancestors for a large Country Women's Association fundraising ball.

Held at the Ambassadors in Sydney, the event attracted a lot of media attention, with the young women presented as part of a series of tableaux vivants and promoted as 'Living Pictures'. The silk dress carries the evidence of Clarice's night at the ball: the machine-made lace on the collar and sleeve cuffs, the metal hip panniers stitched inside the skirt, and her nametag sewn onto the waistband.

Physical description

Green and floral brocade open-front robe with "en fourreau" back. The lace trim on sleeves and collar and the three small fabric-covered metal panniers which have been stitched into skirt were added in the 1920's. The dress was also altered and enlarged in the late 18th century, with a repair to the hem. The button on either side of the centre back was used to convert the dress to a polonaise with a cord textile in the side. Made in England. Worn to fancy dress party by Clarice Faithfull Anderson in 1920s - a tag sewn into the waistband reads "C.V. Faithfull Anderson".

Statement of significance

The Springfield Collection comprises about 1550 artefacts from Springfield station, south of Goulburn. It includes colonial era costume, a bushranger medal, surveying instruments, a late-19th century landau, firearms and edged weapons, wool samples and Joseph Foveaux's pocket watch and bible. The objects are complemented by over 400 photographs. This diverse collection reflects the growth and economic success of the property, responses to changes in the wool market and the daily lives of the people who have lived on Springfield.

Springfield has grown from a 518-hectare land grant given to William Pitt Faithfull in 1828 to the current 3183 hectares with ownership remaining in the one family. William Pitt Faithfull established the Springfield Merino Stud in 1838 with ten rams selected from the Macarthur Camden Park stud. The stud evolved slowly over the years until the early 1950s when, under the management of Jim Maple-Brown, a scientific approach to wool-growing was adopted and the stud's name was changed to Fonthill to reflect this.

Object information

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