Frequently asked questions

Dress front (detail), Brussels Duchesse lace. Powerhouse Museum collection, gift of Orwell Phillips, 1960. H6670-1

Dress front (detail), Brussels Duchesse lace. Powerhouse Museum collection, gift of Orwell Phillips, 1960. H6670-1

Dress (detail), aesthetic style, silk, worn by Louisa Burrows, maker unknown, Australia, 1880-1900. Powerhouse Museum collection, gift of Ms Barbara Shorter, 1984. A10682

Dress (detail), aesthetic style, silk, worn by Louisa Burrows, maker unknown, Australia, 1880-1900. Powerhouse Museum collection, gift of Ms Barbara Shorter, 1984. A10682

Court robe (detail), informal, silk, unknown maker, China, about 1900. Powerhouse Museum collection, gift of Mr and Mrs Joseph Mikulicic-Rodd, 1971. A5920

Court robe (detail), informal, silk, unknown maker, China, about 1900. Powerhouse Museum collection, gift of Mr and Mrs Joseph Mikulicic-Rodd, 1971. A5920

What is meant by Australian dress?

'Dress' is used as a generic term for all garments with their accessories, whether formal or informal, for men women or children. It includes performance costume, occupational dress and uniforms. Australian dress refers to garments made or worn in Australia or which have an Australian provenance.

Is it just for dress in NSW collections?

For this first stage, dress from NSW, either in private or public collections, is eligible for the register. The project is envisaged to develop into a broader and ongoing program which will reflect dress in collections across Australia.

What will be included on the register?

The Australian Dress Register will document significant and well provenanced men's, women's and children's dress in or relating to NSW dating up to 1945. An entry can include the accessories associated with the garment, for example, shoes, bag, hat, shawls, coat, underwear that were worn as the entire outfit.

What are the benefits of being on the register or using the register?

The Australian Dress Register will allow people to view some of the wonderful dress collections from NSW, pre 1945, that are scattered throughout Australia and the world. The garments are currently in museums large and small, along with private collections. The register supports the garments remaining in their locations, while providing access on the website. Once you have entered the dress it will be available for all to share, compare and discuss online. By sharing this information with the wider community, people from all over the world can learn about dress history. For example, someone from Toowoomba in Queensland may see a dress in the register from Taree that is of the same fabric and style as the one in their local museum. They could then approach the Taree contact to see if there are any further connections.

An important outcome is to provide information for non-commercial educational purposes to as broad an audience as possible. The potential audience includes students and teachers from a variety of disciplines, museums and local communities,

family and regional historians, theatre/film industry, designers, clothing and textile manufacturers, shoemakers, costumiers, milliners, embroiderers, lace makers, artists and academics.

Benefits for the organisations who participate include discovery and recognition of the significance of their collections, training and skills development in the care and documentation of dress and museum best practice, as well as providing corroborating support for grant and funding applications.

Why has 1945 been selected as the cut-off date?

The pre 1945 date was selected to focus the program on the older, more fragile textile objects believed to be most at risk. Of particular interest is the identification of colonial dress in collections and those older items where information about their origins is still available.

How do I know if my garment is significant enough to go on the register?

Significance refers to the historic, aesthetic, technical and social values associated with an item of dress and its place in a community. A well provenanced garment in poor condition may be more appropriate than a very beautiful one without accompanying information. As the dress is not going on display, the condition is not as important, so this may affect your choice. Dress to go on the register should include all aspects of clothing, including normal daily life and occupations. It is envisaged that a broad range of dress will be included. Discussions with regional coordinators may assist in this decision-making. The Museum will review entries before they go online and may request additional information before uploading the registration.

How many garments can I register?

There is no limit to the number of entries that can be provided by an organisation or private individual but it is recommended that only one entry is in undertaken at a time and that only those garments which are the most significant in your collection are considered for entry on the Register. (as per the PDF FAQ)

Can I put a hat or a pair of shoes on the register?

At this stage the primary focus is dress and accompanying accessories so such items can be added but only as accessories to an outfit.

I have a wedding dress which belonged to my grandmother. Can I put it on the register?

Wedding dresses will be included as long as they are accompanied by good documentation and images.

Will I have to show people the actual dress?

The register is an online database that can be shared with people from all over the world. It is not about physical access to the objects. The ownership and/or location of the dress entries can be withheld for security reasons if you wish.

How can I be involved? How can my organisation be involved?

You can be involved as an individual if you feel you have a significant example of Australian dress which is pre 1945. Organisations can be involved by registering objects in their collections, as a host for one of the workshops associated with the program, or as a regional partner for the project coordinating the collection of data for a particular district or region. Partnerships will be sought with key organisations and where there is synergy with this project.

Who manages the register?

The Powerhouse Museum has initiated the project and hosts the website. Decisions regarding the development are managed by a committee with representation from across the sector and include those who contribute and use the site. The day-to-day operation of the site is coordinated by staff from the curatorial, conservation, registration and regional services departments in the Powerhouse Museum. Training and support with the entry of data is provided by the Powerhouse Museum, with assistance from regional volunteer coordinators. If you wish to access this support contact us at dressregister@phm.gov.au.

When will the Australian Dress Register be available on the web?

The website for the Australian Dress Register will be launched early 2011. Then the Powerhouse Museum will be seeking partners to collaborate on the project and support the training and skills development opportunities which will be provided to promote the program, support the documentation of dress and the uploading of data for the website.

How can students be involved in the project?

Students will be very useful as volunteers in regional museums and galleries to assist with documentation. Research into makers, family and community history can be most helpful when deciding which objects to choose. The wealth of information available on the register will be a useful resource for teachers across the curriculum areas.

How can I access training for the documentation for the register?

The register will include links and modules to assist with, not only completing entries for the register, but the whole spectrum of assessing, handling, photographing, storing and displaying dress in small collections. Regional partners will host workshops held at strategic locations across the state.

Do I need to photograph the dress?

Yes. Good clear photographs of the garments are essential for the online database. There are information sheets and videos that demonstrate how to prepare a dress for display on a mannequin and how to photograph it in a studio or in situ in a museum where space might be tight. If a dress is too fragile to place on a mannequin, there is information on how to photograph it on a sloped backboard. Associated material can also be included in the entry for a dress, such as historic photographs (eg wedding photographs), or scans of the purchase receipt, wedding certificate, or press reports. Garments should not be dressed on a person as this may cause damage.

Can I include an audio recording of an interview providing information on the history of the dress?

Yes. Audio recordings will be able to be uploaded online in the near future.

Can I register a garment if I have a computer but don't have internet access?

Yes, we can send you a CD with the blank Australian Dress Register form (Word doc) and help notes. You can post it back to us, along with your photos (scans or copies, no originals please). The form and help notes are also available on the resources page on the website.

Can I register a garment if I don't have a computer?

Yes, we can send you a blank Australian Dress Register form and the help notes. When you have completed the form you can send it to us with your photos (scans or copies, no originals please) and we can enter the information onto the register for you. The form and help notes are also available on the resources page on the website.

How do I contact the register?

Email: dressregister@phm.gov.au
Phone: (02) 9217 0220 freecall
Free call: (NSW only): 1800 882 092
Post: Australian Dress Register, c/- Powerhouse Museum, PO Box K346, Haymarket NSW 1238.