Amanda Vickery brought this site to my attention, and I thought you would all love to add it to your sources list. The Australian Dress Register is a collaborative online project, based in New South Wales, and its aim is to collate information about dress and costume dating between 1770 and 1945.

As its website states:

Museums and private collectors are encouraged to research their garments and share the stories and photographs while the information is still available and within living memory. The Register encourages people to consider their collections very broadly and share what they know about members of their community, what they wore and life in the past. This provides access to a world wide audience while keeping their garments in their relevant location.

At present the scope is limited to New South Wale and by date, but the organisers hope to expand this. From the results I’ve seen thus far I fervently hope they do.

You can examine individual garments by searching on a keyword or by clicking on the interactive time line. Clothes that survive from our era are few, but fascinating. Australia was a penal colony during Jane Austen’s life time and, in my opinion,  she would have been acutely aware of it. Her aunt, Jane Leigh Perrot faced possible transportation to Australia had she been found guilty of stealing an amount of lace from Mrs Gregory’s shop in Bath in 1799. She stood trial for larceny and was acquitted. But I’m sure the family must have been fully aware  of her possible fate. We know they were very supportive of her, for we know that Mrs Austen wrote to her bother and his wife suggesting Jane and Cassandra accompany them while they were being kept on remand at Ilchester Gaol. Her cousin, Montague Cholmeley of Easton in Lincolnshire wrote this letter to her in January 1800, which gives a summation of that extraordinary offer:

You tell me that your good sister Austen has offered you one or both of her daughters to continue with you during your stay in that vile place, but you decline the kind offer, as you cannot procure them accommodation in the house with you, and you cannot let those elegant young women be your inmates in a prison, nor be subjected to the inconveniences which you are obliged to put up with.

What is wholly absorbing to read on the website are the stories behind the clothes. It is fascinating and humbling to realise that these ladies, who lived genteel lives in this new and, to them wholly alien country, still wanted desperately to “keep up appearances”. That is what distinguishes this site from many others: the sheer amount of information attached to each garment. For not only does the site contain many good photographs of each garment, from an overview to close-ups of important details, but, as far as they are able, a detailed history of the person who wore the clothes is added too. Notes on the individual pieces of clothing which place them in their historical context are full and fascinating. Allow me to show you two examples. Below is Anna King’s evening dress dating from 1805

From the site we learn that Anna King was the wife of the Governor, and most probably wore this dress at receptions at Government House.

Above is Elizabeth Marsden’s pale green silk wedding dress which she wore on the occasion of her marriage to the Reverend Samuel Marsden in Hull, Yorkshire in 1793. They emigrated to New South Wales where the Reverend Marsden was Chaplain to the colony.The dress was later remade into the dress we see now for their daughter, Ann’s marriage in 1822.

What is fascinating about this dress is that not only are we given marvellously detailed photographs of it and an intriguing history of its owners, but also included are photographs of some of her other clothes. An unexpected bonus are images of Elizabeth Marsden and some of her clothes. I find all this detailed information stunning.

I have so enjoyed reading this absorbing and fascinating website and really strongly recommend it to you, if you are at all interested in the costume of our period.