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Clothing: 1890 - 1910

In 1890 only some women's clothing was available ready-made. Women were expected to bind their bodies, using rigid, inflexible corsets. Their hair was usually long, worn up in a bun or pinned.  Girls  wore ringlets or had their hair  loose. Being tidily dressed in public was a communal value, across all ages and classes. Fashions were common across age and class.  It was the quality and quantity of cloth, the fit and  accessories which acted as markers of wealth. Sewing machines and patterns were becoming available for home sewing. Men dressed very formally at all times, even at work.  The suit, jacket, tie and hat was a common 'uniform' for all classes. The clothing industry was very important to Dunedin's economy. In 1901 27% of Dunedin's workforce were employed in the clothing industry with 80% of them women.

Day DressThis two piece dress is a combination of black silk fabric and white net and lace, puffed sleeves and a slight bustle-backed skirt and is typical of the mid-1890s.  The boned jacket and skirt outfit, purchased in Glasgow, was probably quite expensive since it has lavish self fabric furbelows and velvet trim. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

Day DressA silk satin bodice and skirt with net lace and braid trim are features of this day dress.  Although similar to the earlier black dress, this has less boning in its bodice, and a simpler, lighter skirt.  Mrs J.H. Walker wore this combination during her time as Mayoress of Dunedin in 1909. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

SuitThis men's suit was standard day dress for a middle-class man.  The jacket has a quilted lining, but the suit has no label to indicate its tailor. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

uniformAn embroidered linen blouse and serviceable gored black skirt, circa 1900.  This style became almost a uniform for young working women and students. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)


cotton drawersLate nineteenth century cotton drawers.  At this time the crotch seam was left open. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

Edwardian petticoatEdwardian petticoat of cotton with cotton lace.  The flounces at its lower edge helped hold the flared shape of the skirt worn over it. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)


CamisoleDelicate and decorative as well as useful in hiding the shape of the corset underneath and protecting the outer garments from the body.  Cotton, circa 1900. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

Singer sewing machineBy the time this hand operated Singer sewing machine was manufactured circa 1892-3, Singer had established a long tradition of sewing machine production.  The man whose name has become synonymous with sewing machines, Isaac Merritt Singer, produced his first machine in 1850.  By 1890 Singer had made nine million machines. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

[Next: 1910 to 1920]

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