Laura Jocic

Laura Jocic (PhD in History, 2024) Dress in Australia: The Materiality of a Colonial Society in the Making

The study of surviving items of dress offers a vital material source for historians that is commonly ignored. Dress sits at the intersections between necessity and self-representation, the assertion of social standing and cultural, economic and technological aspects of society. Yet writings on dress in the Australian colonial context have largely overlooked the extant items, focusing instead on images and text. ‘Dress in Australia: The Materiality of a Colonial Society in the Making’ takes a material culture approach to the history of colonial era dress from the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 to the late-nineteenth century. It pays particular attention to the early years of colonisation and development of colonial society in the years up to the early 1870s.

The research methodology, which uses the study of a selection of garments in public and private collections, which are known to have been either made or worn in Australia, places surviving items of dress and their materiality to the fore in discussions of European colonisation and Australian settler culture. The close examination of surviving items of dress, coupled with contextual interpretation of objects based on archival research using letters, journals and correspondence, as well as visual material, demonstrates how such an approach enables historical interpretations that would not have been possible from a narrower methodological base. Through the detailed analysis and contextual interpretation of objects, this thesis shows how their materiality prompts new directions and expanded ways of thinking about the significance of dress within a rapidly changing settler society.

Supervisors: Professor Antonia Finnane, Dr Carolyn Rasmussen, Dr Carla Pascoe Leahy