Dress; c.1870; 974/13.5



About this object

A matching, separate black net apron creates two looks for this pale pink satin grosgrain ball gown with lace trim and short, puffed net sleeves.

The low, wide scooped neckline of the bodice is decorated with a cream lace frill. Directly below the neckline is a box-pleated pink silk ruffle secured in the middle with fine gold braid. Below that is a flounce of black lace with an alternately scalloped and fringed edge. The ruffle and flounce are then repeated.

Although the bodice opens at the centre front, it also laces, but does not open, at the back along an inverted pleat. The front opening continues across the high waistband into the left-hand side front seam of the skirt, and fastens with hooks. There is a pocket in the right-hand side front seam.

While elsewhere it is gathered, at the centre back the skirt is pleated onto the waistband with box pleats. From the waistband the skirt flares out to the hem, which is decorated with a wide band of black lace below a narrow band of black lace. The join between them is covered by black velvet ribbon. The hem has black velvet binding and a train at the back.

The sleeves are small puffs with pink silk piping at the shoulder seams. The satin ruffle along the neckline is repeated on the sleeves with an accompanying flounce of the same narrow lace used at the hem. Under this is the puff, made from a double layer of white net. The sleeves are finished with cream lace as at the neck but here it is threaded with a fine, black velvet ribbon.

A thin black velvet ribbon and band of the narrow black lace decorate the apron’s pink silk waistband, which secures at the left-hand side with hooks. A bow of black velvet and lace on the hook end hides the opening.

The black net hangs straight down at the front but is gathered up at the sides and into the waistband at the back, forming a pouched area that would have draped over the bustle. At the back are two long sashes of the pink silk that are pleated onto the waistband and have scalloped edges.

The main seams are machine sewn, but all other work was done by hand.

Date Made


Medium and Materials

Silk grosgrain/Lace/Net


Bust: 72 cm
Waist: 58 cm
Overall length: 133 cm

Subject and Association Keywords

Elworthy, Sarah Maria, 1844-1933

Subject and Association Description

The owner of this dress, Sarah Maria (Shorrock) Elworthy, was born in Over Darwen, Lancashire in 1844 to a life of comfort and prosperity. Her father, James Shorrock, had been drawn into the developing cotton industry by his uncle and risen to significant wealth. Her husband, Edward Elworthy, born in Wellington, Somerset in 1836, likewise came from a wealthy family, one whose fortune derived from the cloth industry. As a fourth son, however, Edward chose to improve his personal fortune abroad, leaving Sarah, his sweetheart, behind.

Edward arrived in New Zealand in 1864 and by the end of that year was the sole owner of the Pareora run in South Canterbury, also known as Holme Station. Now with something to offer a wife, Edward returned to England in 1866 and married Sarah in Darwen on 16 January 1867. The couple left for New Zealand later that year.

Although she was at first put off by what she called the ‘wood shanty with an iron roof’ at Pareora, Sarah settled into her new life well, dedicating herself to the community and her eleven children. After 1875, she was also able to enjoy a renovated house at Pareora, where the Elworthys loved to hold balls, parties, and picnics. Perhaps Sarah wore this dress at one of these balls.

Sarah sat on several local event committees and was president of the St. Mary’s Guild. She also donated Sunday School prizes, supported the local school and presented prizes at its end-of-year functions, and, as one who enjoyed gardening herself, acted as judge at local flower shows.

When Edward died in 1899, he left his family an estate of over £200 000, having carefully managed Pareora and other land he acquired later. Sarah was left a significant annuity and chose set up house in Christchurch with her daughter Edith (1869-1951), who never married and to whom Sarah was very close. Sarah and Edith spent several years travelling around Europe and beyond to buy the furnishings for their new residence. In the 1920s they moved back to Timaru, where Sarah died in 1933.

Object number


Copyright Licence  

Attribution - Non-commercial - No Derivatives (cc) Attribution - Non-commercial - No Derivatives (cc)

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