Dressing for Queensland

Two swagmen dressed in typical Queensland male fashion Two swagmen dressed in typical Queensland male fashion (SLQ 64593) Mrs T. Walker displaying the sombre fashions of the mid 19th century Mrs T. Walker displaying the sombre fashions of the mid 19th century A female cyclist kitted out in the ‘rational dress’ style of the late 19th century A female cyclist kitted out in the ‘rational dress’ style of the late 19th centuryThe first Europeans to arrive in Australia in the late 18th century brought with them packing cases full of the heavy woollen and tweed garments they had worn at home. It did not take them long to realise that such cold-weather clothing would not be suited to the southern climate. A cooler, more practical, style of colonial dress soon emerged. In the humid, sub-tropical climate of Queensland, this generally meant light-weight, light-coloured clothing. For the working man, moleskin trousers and open necked shirts were a popular choice, while working women selected dresses of cool cotton print.

While Queensland dress developed a particular regional flavour, it was not entirely cut-off from the rest of the world. London tailors and Parisian dressmakers still set the standard for high fashion, and clothing styles responded to international trends. One of the most prominent of these was fashion for mourning clothes which followed the death of Queen Victoria’s husband, Albert, in 1861. Queensland women, along with their sisters throughout the British Empire, donned heavy black dresses over their tight corsets and voluminous underskirts. It was not until the equally international trend for ‘rational dress’ almost three decades later that Queensland women were able to abandon these restrictive garments for more comfortable styles.

Queenslanders have continued to produce unique fashions up to the present day, and hundreds of these garments - ranging from the 19th century ball-gowns to 20th century board shorts - are held in the Queensland Museum collections.

Queensland Museum's Find out about... is proudly supported by the Thyne Reid Foundation and the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation.