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National Museum of Australia

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Linen dress with Australian wildflower embroidery

2006.0058.0001

Linen dress with Australian wildflower embroidery

Object information

Physical description

Sleeveless dress made from a heavy, thick-weave cream linen. The dress has a boatneck neckline at front and a low v-neck at the back tapering to the waist, and a slightly A-line skirt with a flap of material at the front giving the effect of a wrapskirt. A richly textured design of Australian flora featuring waratah, wattle, bottlebrush, kangaroo paw, flannel flower, Sturt desert pea, bluebells and banksia is embroidered onto the garment from the left breast to the hem line, along the line of the flap and around the hem on both the front and sides. Zip on the left seam from underarm to hip.

Statement of significance

The Jan Taylor collection documents Jan's experience as a participant through regional, state and national contests for the Miss Australia Quest, her crowning as Miss Australia 1964, and her participation in the 1964 International Beauty Congress. The collection includes three sashes, a scrapbook, a Miss Australia 1964 sceptre, an LP record, and a dress designed as 'national costume' by Beril Jents, worn by Jan at the International Beauty Congress in Long Beach, California. The collection is supported by thirty-two (32) photographs and ephemera items documenting Jan Taylor's experience as participant, and eventual winner of the Miss Australia Quest.

The Miss Australia Quest (from 1992 known as the Miss Australia Awards) ran continuously from 1953 to 2000 and was arguably the longest running, most popular and most successful charitable enterprise in Australia's history. The first documented nationwide contest to identify Australia's ideal woman was held in 1907, however the first official use of the title 'Miss Australia' is more generally thought to have been used in relation to 'Miss Australia 1926' - Beryl Mills from Western Australia. Further contests were held in 1927, 1937, and from 1945 until 1950. It was in 1953 when Bernard Dowd (manufacturer of Hickory Lingerie in Australia) and his company Dowd Associates took over running of the competition that the Quest became a registered business enterprise, and the 'search for Miss Australia' gained momentum. From 1954 until 2000 the Quest ran primarily as a fundraising event for the Australian Cerebral Palsy Association (ACPA), and is estimated to have raised $90 million for people with cerebral palsy. Over its lifetime, the Quest reflected many of the changes that took place in Australian society and culture: the changing role and perceptions of women; changing perceptions of people with disabilities; the influence of migrants and 'New Australians'; and the presentation of Australia and Australians overseas.

Object information

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