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Muriel McPhee’s mourning overdress

This composition conveys a sense of sadness and mourning that is broadly reflective of the experience of death. It was composed on the ukulele to produce a delicate and fragile sound.

The work has a sense of nostalgia that links directly to Muriel McPhee’s trousseau. It imagines Muriel making beautiful objects and preparing for her future wedding and a shared life that never came.

Muriel McPhee’s mourning overdress up close 03:33

This video has no sound.

First World War tragedy

Black dress with sheer sleeves and satin lining. - click to view larger image

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

An accomplished seamstress, Muriel carefully stitched underwear, nightdresses, pillowcases, tablecloths and doilies. These formed her trousseau, a collection of items made in preparation for married life.

Muriel 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.

This dress is the only black item among Muriel’s trousseau. Worn over everyday clothes, it provided a cost-effective way to acknowledge the death of a loved one.

Mourning Dress on ABC Classic

In our collection

Sheer black mourning 'overdress' with ruffled bodiceThis overdress was worn by Muriel McPhee. McPhee's family believe that around 1916 McPhee became engaged, although they don't know to whom. They believe he was killed on the Western Front. Following the loss of her fiancé during the First World War, McPhee wore black clothing and accessories as a reminder of her loss and grief. ...
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