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Dressmaker and farmhand

Portrait of a woman wearing a white outfit and white hat. - click to view larger image
Muriel McPhee, about 1920

Muriel McPhee grew up on a cattle property near Grafton in northern New South Wales. During the war, she worked on the family farm by day and sewed by lamplight in the evening.

An accomplished seamstress, McPhee carefully stitched underwear, nightdresses, pillowcases, tablecloths and doilies. These formed her trousseau, a collection of items made in preparation for married life. She kept a photograph of a young soldier on her dressing table but little is known about the man she was to marry. When he was killed, she packed away the trousseau forever.

Mourning overdress, 1910–20

The origin and use of this dress is uncertain but it was the only black item among Muriel McPhee’s trousseau. Worn over everyday clothes, it was a cost-effective way to acknowledge the death of a loved one

Stories of sadness and loss

Collector Peter Lane and curators Laina Hall and Susannah Helman discuss three stories from the Australian Journeys gallery: the emotional drama of convict tokens, Alexander Mussen’s redemption on the goldfields and Muriel McPhee’s secret trousseau.
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Presenters: Susannah Helman, Laina Hall and Peter Lane
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