Dress owned by Thomas Hardy’s sister goes on display at Museum

Katharine Hardy

Katharine Hardy © DCM

Dorset County Museum’s textile archive includes a significant collection of clothing originally owned by Thomas Hardy’s family. Among the pieces is a stunning red bustle dress worn by his sister Katherine.

Until now most of the collection has remained in storage but a generous grant from the Daphne Bullard Trust has enabled the dress to be specially prepared and placed on display in the Museum’s Writers Gallery.

Bustle dress from 1890s owned by Kate Hardy, sister of Thomas Hardy © Jonathan Gooding 2014

Bustle dress from 1890s owned by Kate Hardy, sister of Thomas Hardy © Jonathan Gooding 2014

The bustle dress has been mounted on a bespoke mannequin with text panels and photographs showing the context in which it was worn. The dress, made in about 1889, consists of a bodice and skirt in red grosgrain silk. It is an evocative, personal garment with a tight-fitting, fashionable bodice and skirt. With its luxurious red silk and bustle, it is similar to the fashionable dresses Tess wears in Hardy’s famous novel, Tess of the d’Urbervilles.

Displaying the dress both safely and sympathetically was a complicated project. A particular consideration was Kate Hardy’s large bust. She also had a very small waist and narrow shoulders so a special mannequin was adapted with additional padding in the relevant areas. A petticoat was added for support and padded arms allow the sleeves to hold their natural shape. Extra pads were finally attached around the hips to help support the weight of the skirt and prevent stress on the original fastenings.

To see the dress, visit Dorset County Museum between 10.00am to 4.00pm, Monday to Saturday.

Related Links:

Daphne Bullard Trust Hardy Signs

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