Exercise 1.2 Substance and Story: Collar


There is no maker’s label on the article.

The body of the collar is either a cotton or linen voile, with a very fine, open weave that renders it semi-transparent.

Close up of voile.

Microscopic examination of the fibre shows that piece is made of cotton. The fibres show the characteristic twist of cotton.

Cotton reference.

Collar fibre.

A textile such as this is best cared for by storing flat and loosely layering (to allow air circulation) with archival quality acid-free glassine or tissue in an acid-free archive box (Baker, 2008).

The collar was starched and stored this way, no doubt contributing to the level of damage it has sustained. There are numerous holes, probably from silverfish. Baker (2008) recommends laundering items prior to storage to avoid this issue. There are also stains which may just be from storage, or on the item prior to storage.

I will launder this item, supported by a plastic fly-screen, so that it doesn’t tear under it’s own weight, as advised by Baker. I will use warm water rinses initially, and if this is unsuccessful, introduce a mild detergent.

Production Method

The voile has been commercially woven, as is the cotton tape used for fastening the dickey at the sides of the body.

All the seams are machine sewn, with a narrow (3-4mm) enclosed seam; while the hems at the edge are folded twice and hemmed to a narrow edge (3-4mm), a handkerchief seam.

Shoulder Seam.

The presence of a bobbin thread on the back of the zig-zag embellishment and pulled-threadwork indicates that is was also applied by machine.

Zig-Zag Embellishment, Front.

Cotton tape is applied along the base of the fronts and back. A long tape is left hanging from the back edge, while a loop is formed at the front edge to allow closure.

Close-up Cotton Tape.

The article was almost certainly purchased, ready to wear.

Starch was applied to the article, and it was stored in this manner.

The cotton industry in Australia is enormous and is a large commercial interprise in my home state of Queensland. In 2012, Australia produced “5 million bales, with a total forecast value of close to $3 billion”, mainly for export (Cotton Australia, 2020a).

However, things were very different in the 1920s. Although the cotton industry was growing between the 1920s and 30s (Cameron, 1999, p. 355), the goods manufactured were broadcloth, cotton seat padding (Forster, 1959, p. 99), as well as “cotton yarn and weaving towels, calico, canvas and duck” (Forster, 1959, p.222), not the finely milled cotton required to make voile. Despite the growth of the industry, with government support, it was still a neonate at the end of the 1920s (Forster, 1959, p.160).

According to Cotton Australia (2020b), in the 1920s, “the USA accounts for more than half of the world’s cotton fibre”, therefore the original fibre has at least a 50:50 chance of being grown there and imported into Australia.

We don’t have many photos of Dorothy, and none of them feature any of the collars in the collection. Photographs can be such a fantastic resource for dating and tracing items, and are likely to be kept. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to see a receipt or ledger! However, these items were disposed then, just as they are now.


Visual Examination
The collar appears to have been worn quite often. There is a small pull between the shoulder and neck seam that appears to be stretching due to wearing and laundering. The voile is thin and fragile, and would have been delicate-looking even when new,

Dating the item is very difficult. Detachable collars and cuffs were popular in the Victorian and Edwardian periods; but persisted as a trend into the 1930s and 1940s, and even into the 1950s.

There were a variety of collars in Dorothy’s collection or about a dozen. This was the only one in the dickey style. They are all adult sized. Dorothy was 18 years old in 1916, so presuming they belonged to her, this is probably around the oldest they could be. Since the newest newspaper in the trunk was from the 1940s, this is probably the newest they could be.

I found a number of advertisements and patterns for such items, spanning the 1920s to the 1940s. However, this only narrows the dates to within a couple of decades.


c. 1920s (Ogle Paulson, 2011).

c. 1920s (Ruby Lane Antiques)

1924-25, Anne Orr, Book 19.


The Spool Cotton Company, 1936

c. 1930s


Hollywood Patterns, c 1940s

Simplicity Pattern #4582, c. 1940s.

Upon perusing many photographs and patterns, I believe the date of the item most likely 1920s, especially since other collars in the collection resemble these also. The 1930s and 1940s detachable collars seem much more elaborate, and less likely to be embroidered. I can’t be sure without further verification.

The item is damaged by silverfish which have eaten a myriad of holes through the cotton. It also has brown marks and spots from age and storage. As noted above, I will attempt to launder the collar before storage; hopefully, it will brighten and the spots will be removed in the process.

Dorothy has added a metal hook and eye at the neck; it must have gaped when she wore it. Another metal hook and eye has been added to the bottom of the article to make it close, which would have made it stay in place under the top layer clothing, and would have given something to pull against when tying the tapes at the side.

Other Elements

There was another article salvaged from the trunk with the same decoration:

At first I thought it may be a set of matching cuffs; but, on closer inspection it is another, separate collar. The decoration on this, and the main piece are delightfully austere, in keeping with the art-deco style. The simple zig-zag and cut-work border must have been one of Dorothy’s favourites.

None of the many collars are sets with matching cuffs. Then again, I can’t imagine much use for cuffs in outback Queensland.


I had an enlightening moment when handling this collar. I gave it a very light press (silk setting) before photography. At the time I thought: “the last time this was pressed was with an old iron heated on a wood stove”. There was no electricity on the farm until the 1970s. I have Dorothy’s old irons. I felt a very real connection with the past in that moment.

I can imagine that this collar was used when Dorothy went to town, or taught her students. It is an everyday item, but more dressy than a house dress.

This research has been a joy because it makes connections to my family’s past.

Baker, M. M. (2008). Caring for Your Textile Heirlooms.
Cooperative Extension Service, University of Kentuky, Department of Agriculture: Kentucky, USA
Viewed: https://fleming.ca.uky.edu/files/caring_for_your_textile_heirlooms.pdf, 12 May 2020.

Cameron, D. B., (1999). An historical assessment of economic development, manufacturing and the political economy in Queensland, 1900 to 1930. PhD Thesis,
School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics, University of Queensland.
Viewed: https://espace.library.uq.edu.au/view/UQ:157921, 17 May 2020.

Cotton Australia, (2020b) World Cotton History,
Viewed: https://cottonaustralia.com.au/world-cotton-history, 17 May 2020.

Cotton Australia, (2020b) ‘Community contribution’ in Industry Overview,
Viewed: https://cottonaustralia.com.au/world-cotton-history, 17 May 2020.

Forster, C. (1959) Industrial Development in Australia 1920-1930, PhD Thesis,
Australian University.
Viewed: https://openresearch-repository.anu.edu.au/bitstream/1885/15849/2/b10144572-Forster.pdf, 12 May 2020.

Hollywood Patterns (1940s). Pattern 1085,
Viewed: https://www.sovintagepatterns.com/1940s-War-Time-Dickeys-Suit-Inserts-Pattern-Hollywood-1085-Includes-5-Styles-and-A-Crochet-Pattern-For-View-5-One-Size-Vintage-Sewing-Pattern_p_1384.html, 17 May 2020.

Ogle Paulson, S. (2011).’1920’s Undergarments Part 3′ in The Vintage Dressmaker, January 29
Viewed: http://thevintagedressmaker.blogspot.com/2011/01/1920s-undergarments-part-3.html, 17 May 2020.

Orr, A. (1924-1925). Collars, Cuff and Narrow Laces, Crochet Book No. 19,
J & P Coats: USA
Viewed: http://antique-crochet.com/antique-crochet-books/j-p-coats-coats-clark/jp-coats-collars-cuffs-and-narrow-laces-crochet-book-19-by-anne-orr, 17 May 2020.

RubyLane.com (1920s), ANTIQUE French Lace Collar and Cuffs,
Viewed: https://www.rubylane.com/item/2081941-RL-352/ANTIQUE-French-Lace-Collar-Cuffs-Mix78ed, 17 May 2020.

Simplicity Pattern Co (c. 1940s) Pattern #4582,
Viewed: https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Vintage-1940s-Sewing-Pattern-Collar-Set-Accessories-Occasions-Size-Small-WWll-/262654162700?roken=cUgayN, 17 May 2020.

The Spool Cotton Company, (1936). Neckwear, Book No. 81.
Clark’s O.N.T.
Viewed: https://freevintagecrochet.com/collar-patterns/spool81/2204-antique-lace-collar-and-cuffs-pattern, 17 May 2020.

Coles, C. (2015). ‘Style Inspiration: 1930s Necklines and Collars’ in Vintage-Gal, July 3,
Viewed: http://vintagegal.co.uk/vintage-fashion-2/style-inspiration-1930s-necklines-and-collars/, 17 May 2020.