Federation Dress


On the 9th of May in 1901, 12,000 people thronged to the Exhibition Building for the first official opening of the Commonwealth Parliament of Australia. Sabina Peipers accompanied her father, the Imperial German Consul, W. A. Brahe, to the opening. She and her father can be seen in the official painting by Charles Nuttal.

The full-length dress is made of black net, silk satin, and is heavily beaded. Mrs Peipers would have had the dress made by a local dressmaker, and it's in black to commemorate the fact that Queen Victoria had recently died, and the nation was in mourning.

You can see that the dress is really well detailed. We've got beautiful beading on the bodice, and on the back, on the sleeves, and on the hem of the net. There's lovely, very fine lace around the neckline, and again on the sleeves. And a really rich velvet ribbon with tasselled beads at the end on the bodice.

The dress would have been a really special piece, and what's really lovely is we know that in about 1910-1914, Mrs Peipers actually had it taken in to reflect the new slim lines that are fashions of the day. An indication that the dress was very special and not just a throw-away object.

About this Video

Charlotte Smith talks about a favourite object in The Melbourne Story exhibition, Federation Dress
Length: 1:28