Monday, February 6, 2012

What Australian women wore in the early 20th century

20s afternoon tea dance Miss Page gown display 2011
I am extremely lucky to have a collection of dresses made by a local Blue Mountains dress maker, Violet Florence Page, I wrote about her last year in Heart's Broken After War. In that post you can read how I came into this small costume treasure from a local jobbing dressmaker spanning the 1920 - 1950s.

What fascinates me about these dresses and gowns made by Miss Page, is that they represent what women wore during the years of the 1920s through to the 1950s in Australia. When I do costuming, particularly in anything prior to the 1950s, the dress style and fashion is very American, British and Europe centric. While I love the gowns made by the couturiers and ateliers from overseas, I'm Australian and l would prefer to reflect style as it was here, in Oz, during these times.

20s afternoon tea dance Miss Page gown display 2011
Of course our Australian fashion was (and is) very much influenced by overseas trends. In the 19th century women eagerly sort the fashion magazines that arrived under sail from England and Europe. By the time they arrived, already 6 months or more out-of-date, the local dressmaker would take those styles and adapt them to our climate and to the trims, fabric, and resources available, and so with Miss Page.

The Australian Home Journal (1902 - 1982,  available online at the National Library of Australia), the Australian Women's Weekly (started 1933 and also available online at the NLA),  the New Idea (started 1902 and still going strong) amongst other local fashion magazines, provided women with an Australian flare to the overseas trends, especially through WW1 and WW2 when we were cut off from overseas influences.

20s afternoon tea dance Miss Page gown display 2011
I really appreciate Miss Page's dresses, they reflect my local area, a working dress makers life and they provide me with inspiration to create in the studio.

Her gowns and patterns are my inspiration for my move into pattern making for a commercial audience. Yes, for you, my readers, patterns made for the 21st century women but using the style, structure, design, and sewing techniques from the original time period.

I am starting in the 1940s with my Miss Page pattern collection, its a period that I love, that can show the difference of the Australian woman's style during WWII.

It is a huge learning curve for me, but I am loving it.

I am launching the first of these 1940s patterns in May this year. If you would like to be notified by email of the launch, please send me an email to enquiries at and I'll pop you on the notification list. You won't be annoyed by other emails, I hate spam as much as you do!

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