Mystery surrounds wedding gown found in leather suitcase

Do you recognise this dress? Volunteers and staff at Warkworth Museum would love to know the origins of an ornate Victorian wedding gown, which recently came to them after being left in a leather suitcase at the Warkworth Hospice shop.

Made of cream silk brocade, lace and pearls, the intricately decorated dress consists of a separate skirt and bodice and is thought to date back to the 1880s.

The museum’s textile collection team leader, Jenni McGlashan, says that although time has taken its toll on the fabric, with some silk disintegrating and tears in the lace, it is still an exquisite gown.

“In spite of suspect storage, this gown is in remarkable condition considering it could be 140 years old and silk is a fragile material,” she says. “The fine needlework and exquisite design can be appreciated, as can the built-in calico petticoat, which remains in almost as-new condition.”

She says the bride who wore the dress was probably a ‘society lady’, as it would have been a very expensive gown, and very tiny – her waist measured just 55cm, or 22 inches.

There was also a second dress in the case that was left anonymously with Hospice – a heavy silk day dress in a rich cinnamon brown.

Jenni says Warkworth Museum usually only likes to accept items that have a known history associated with the Warkworth district, but the wedding gown and day dress were too good to refuse. However, she would love to know more about their origins, so is asking anyone who might know anything to contact the museum on 425 7093 or email

The wedding dress is currently on show at the museum as part of its Inspirational Women display, to mark 125 years of women’s suffrage in New Zealand.