Best in Show

Handmade Nightdress, 1936

This elegant peach coloured satin and crepe hand embroidered long nightdress was made by Christina Cameron McLeod, nee McLeod, known as Kirsty. The nightdress was one of number of hand embroidered garments made by Kirsty McLeod and entered in the women’s industries section of the Royal Melbourne Agricultural Show in September 1936. This nightdress and a hand embroidered underskirt won first prizes and both pieces were described in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald as ‘exquisite pieces of needlework’.

The nightdress exhibits many attributes of women’s nightwear of the period such as its design which incorporates a capelet and belt ties, the use of satin and crepe fabrics, and the hand embroidered and appliqued flowers at the neckline. Nightdresses of this period were often as well cut and glamorous as evening wear and this nightdress is an excellent example of such attention to detail and style. The bias cut of the skirt and its fabric inserts also reflect 1930s design. Entering the nightdress in the Royal Melbourne Show suggests that Kirsty was aware of the quality of her work and keen to have her work exhibited and judged by peers.

The design of this nightdress also evidences that Kirsty McLeod was aware of fashion trends which were regularly reported on and photographed in newspapers and women’s magazines. The Australian Women’s Weekly had begun publication in 1933. Something between a magazine and a newspaper, the publication was aimed at a solely female readership, but its owners stipulated that every item within it – whether that item concerned fashion, cookery or personal relationships – should contain an element of news. In addition, the publication should be accessible to Australian women of all classes and creeds. The Australian Women’s Weekly was conceived and underwritten by men, but by the end of its first year of circulation, it had employed a female editor.


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