Collection Online

(c. 1865)

silk, cotton lace
(a) 139.0 cm (centre back) 30.0 cm (waist, flat) (dress)
(b) 81.0 × 67.0 cm (overskirt)
Place/s of Execution
Accession Number
International Fashion and Textiles
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
The Schofield Collection. Purchased with the assistance of a special grant from the Government of Victoria, 1974
Gallery location
Not on display
Physical description
Full length vibrant purple dress with defined waist and long pagoda sleeves edged in white lace. Over collar at front and back is v-shaped and trimmed with white lace. Overskirt fits over back of dress and is trimmed with white lace. Dress finishes in a train.

By 1859, English newspapers such as Punch were satirising the extent to which William Perkin’s vivid shade of purple, mauveine, was dominating fashion, likening it to a case of measles. Considering this claim, analysis of the dyes present in four nineteenth-century purple dresses was undertaken in an effort to identify aniline dyes in the NGV collection. Fibre samples from each dress were analysed by chemist Dr Jeff Church from CSIRO. Thin-layer chromatography and surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy identified that the silk in this dress was dyed with methyl violet, a dye synthesised in 1861 by chemist Charles Lauth, four years after the discovery of mauveine.