Black velvet floor-length dress

This luxurious gown was made for Mrs Dorothy Cameron, on the occasion of her daughter Mayford’s debutante ball in Dunedin in April 1948. The fullness of the skirt, the triple-layered neck and hemline and the bustle-like velvet bow are in extreme contrast to the fabric-conserving shapes prevalent just a few years earlier during the war. While the fashions from Paris were
 not yet available in New Zealand shops, they were seen and talked about in magazines and newspapers. This dress displays many 
of the fashionable attributes of the day with its soft décolleté, fitted bodice and profligate use of fabric – the hemline measures 6.5 metres. Debutante Balls were an important social occasion when young women were formally introduced to their social circle. It was a practice common to many groups – young Catholic women were presented by their father or brother to the Bishop of the Diocese, the daughters of Freemasons made their curtsies to the Masonic Lodge Grand Master and young Māori women were presented to the Māori Queen. It was an important event in the social calendar and warranted the acquisition of new formal garments for all involved. Read more about wearing the colour black in the New Zealand Fashion Museum publication Black: The history of black in fashion, society and culture in New Zealand.


Credit: Garment loan courtesy of Mayford Dawson (née Cameron)
Copyright: Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 Licence
Garment type: Evening dress
Material: Figured and painted velvet, silk velvet trim
Colour: Black
Label: Unknown
Date: 1948