NMA collection record

Hungarian embroidered red velvet gala dress, worn by Eva Castley in 1974

Additional images

Hungarian national dress, 1974


This is a Hungarian embroidered velvet national dress made for Eva Castley by her mother. It has 26,470 beads all individually hand stitched. The headdress has a lace veil made from the dress-apron of Eva's mother's own national dress. Eva and her mother were post-Second World War migrants to Australia.

Educational value

Eva Castley's family was originally from Transylvania. During the war, the family hoped they would be safer if they moved to Budapest. Unfortunately, they found themselves in the midst of conflict and their family home was bombed and destroyed. Eva and her mother were trapped and buried in the ruins of their home for eight days without food or water and little hope for rescue. It was during these eight days that the dress was first imagined. Russian soldiers finally heard Eva and her mother tapping and dug them out of the ruins.

Eva emigrated to Australia in 1948 and her mother followed in 1951. While the family carved out a new life in Australia there was little time to think of dresses or the past, but finally, over 20 years after it was promised, Eva's mother set about making the dress that they had dreamed of. The dress took almost two years to complete. As the dress came together, Eva and her mother sat and relived memories - joyous, terrifying and hopeful. They spoke of their lives in Transylvania, Eva's childhood in the Carpathian Mountains, the terror of the war and their hopes and fears arriving in a new country. The dress was only ever worn once at a charity gala dinner in Tasmania in 1974.

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