Fremantle Stuff > Early Days: Journal and Proceedings of the Royal Western Australian Historical Society

Early Days: Volume 1, 1927-1931

Fashions in the ’thirties'

Burges, Mrs W. & Miss D. Cowan 1928, 'Fashions in the ’thirties', Early Days, vol. 1, part 2: 29.

[Read before the Society August 26, 1927]


[Extract from a paper, compiled by Mrs. William Burges and Miss D. Cowan, giving some recollections of the late Mrs. J. M. Drummond (nee Mary Shaw), who spent her childhood and girlhood mainly in the vicinity of Perth and the Swan, from about 1830 to 1852; and the major portion of her life, from 1852 to 1913, at Redcliffe, White Peak and Sea View, near Geraldton. Mrs. Drummond was born in Leicester, England. In 1825, and came to Western Australia with her parents in the sailing vessel “Egyptian” in 1830. She died in Perth in 1918.]

Mrs. Shaw’s English friends in the early days sent her every year a doll dressed in the latest fashion, in order that her dressmaker should be able to reproduce for her the latest mode in frocks. Mrs. J. M. Drummond was the little daughter fondest of dolls, and they were usually given to her when the dressmaker had copied the frock. Apparently there were no illustrated fashion books published in the ’thirties of last century.

A dressmaker then charged only 8/- for a dress flounced to the waist and made every particle by hand. For men’s white shirts, handstitched, with the front specially hand-tucked or ruffled, a seamstress charged 10/- each, but they took from a week to a fortnight to make. Thomas Hood’s “Song of the Shirt” applied to the outlying parts of the Empire as well as to England in those days.

As a little girl Mrs. J. M. Drummond played with the Brockmans, Viveashes, Tanners, and others. She clearly recalled a party at Lady Stirling’s which she attended with her younger sister. It occurred prior to 1839. That evening she wore a net frock looped up with pearl ornaments, white silk stockings, blue kid shoes and ankle trousers with frills. Her hair was arranged in long curls with a silver flower caught in them. Lady Stirling said the flower did not become her and removed it, and then complimented her on being a good little girl and not making a fuss about losing her flower. Lady Stirling was a handsome brunette. On that occasion she wore white book muslin over a hoop.

The Misses M—— who travelled some, distance (60 miles) to attend the function, said Mrs. Drummond, evidently had difficulty in obtaining suitable costumes, as they appeared at dinner in dark blue glazed calico covered with muslin, and looked very plain in the unbecoming attire.

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