Molesworth Family Wedding Dress (1906)


Molesworth Family Wedding Dress (1906) Image: Gold Museum Collection (2010.0326)

Molesworth Family Wedding Dress (1906)
Image: Gold Museum Collection (2010.0326)

In 2010, this magnificent Edwardian wedding dress was donated to the Gold Museum in an old tin trunk, which also included fancy dress costumes and a pair of ice skating boots.

These items were owned by a branch of the Molesworth family, descended from Robert Molesworth Jr, who was a wealthy pastoralist. His father,  Sir Robert Molesworth,was an Irish judge who immigrated to Australia with his family in 1852, and had a distinguished career in the Victorian courts.

This wedding dress was first worn by Miss. Frances Elizabeth Hill James when she married John Matheson Molesworth, son of Robert Jr, on 6 December 1906, in St Kilda.

Made primarily of cream silk, satin and chiffon, the dress is separated into three pieces: skirt, bodice and train. The satin pleated waist band of the bodice is attached to the skirt by hooks and eyes. The skirt is lined with taffeta, over which are layers of sequined netting, plain chiffon and lace. The train is made of layers of chiffon frills and is highlighted with sprays of artificial orange blossoms.

Mrs Frances Molesworth and bridesmaids (1906) Image: Gold Museum Collection

Mrs Frances Molesworth and bridesmaids (1906)
Image: Gold Museum Collection

When the dress was donated to the Gold Museum, it was accompanied by the two photographs shown here. The first features Mrs. Frances Molesworth on her wedding day. She is accompanied by her six bridesmaids, all of whom were either related to or married to highly influential figures. Cousin Ethel Fitzgerald on the far right, for example, later went on to marry Sir Walter Lumsden and live in Pitcaple Castle in Scotland.

Mrs Mary Hope (1945) Image: Gold Museum Collection

Mrs Mary Hope (1945)
Image: Gold Museum Collection

Frances and John had several children together, of whom four survived infancy.  Their daughter Mary Molesworth wore her mother’s dress for her own wedding to Richard Hope in 1943, as shown in the second photograph here.

We intend to conduct further research into the Molesworth family in future, as their story is an important part of Victorian social history. Their descendants still own the Ballark homestead, which John purchased from the Wallace family in 1915.

For more information:

The Edwardian period is named for the reign of King Edward VII, covering the years 1901 to 1910. This definition is sometimes extended to include the years leading up to World War I in 1914.

To find out more about fashion during this era, please see: Australian Dress Register; Wikipedia, ‘1900s in Fashion’; Edwardian Promenade, ‘Introduction: Edwardian Women’s Fashions’; Costumer’s Manifesto, ‘Edwardian Era,’Pintrest, ‘Edwardian Fashions’.

2 thoughts on “Molesworth Family Wedding Dress (1906)

  1. I am currently researching this family as Mary Molesworth is my mother in law. Some of the information you display is noyt correct. I will be happy to meet with your historian to make the necessary correction and to give you a copy of the book I have published about the family.

    • Hello Wendy,
      Thank you for your comment. We would be delighted to have any additional information that you can provide about the Molesworth family so that we can update our records. Please contact me at and we can arrange a time to meet.
      – Claire, Assistant Curator

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