History: Fabrics and fashion in the Hawkesbury

Advertisement for T Lobb of George Street Windsor from the Hawkesbury Advocate, January 19, 1900.

Advertisement for T Lobb of George Street Windsor from the Hawkesbury Advocate, January 19, 1900.

In years past, necessity dictated that many garments were homemade, to be remodelled and mended to extend their life just a little bit more. General stores in the Hawkesbury District, small and large, stocked a marvelous variety of fabrics, patterns and haberdashery for the home dressmaker.

In 1844, Mr W G Burgis, Storekeeper and Auctioneer of George Street, Windsor advertised stocks of Mousseline de laine and Fustian. Mousseline de laine was a soft and finely woven blend of wool and cotton available printed or plain. In contrast, Fustian is a heavy-duty fabric composed of cotton and linen suitable for work trousers.

Woodhill Co opened in Richmond in 1887 and carried an extensive array of merchandise.

Their range of winter dress fabrics for 1896 included Wool Crepon, Cotele Crepon, Curl Cloth and Amazon fabric all available by the yard in a range of widths.

The height of fashion around the turn of the 19 th century was Merveilleau which was composed of silk or silk/cotton blend with a twill weave and lustrous finish for that special occasion where appearance was important. In July 1888 Windsor was reportedly "all agog" when Mrs G Withers wore "green merveilleaux with lush bonnet to match, and salmon feathers" to the marriage of Mr J R Bradley of Sydney to Miss Mattie Dean of Windsor.

The Reform Tailoring Establishment opened in Richmond in October 1899 from the Windsor and Richmond Gazette, October 14, 1899

The Reform Tailoring Establishment opened in Richmond in October 1899 from the Windsor and Richmond Gazette, October 14, 1899

For the more 'well-to-do', Mr Brown's Reform Tailoring Establishment opened in Richmond in October 1899 providing made to measure garments for the gentlemen of the district as well as cleaning, pressing and repair services. Clients were urged to shop locally and boasting a range of fabrics were available such as Tweed, Serge and Vicuna which is a very expensive fabric made from the hair of the South American Llama.

For the fashion-conscience home dressmaker in 1900, Mrs W Campbell of George Street, Windsor was the local agent for Madame Weigel's paper patterns and publications.

Originally from Prussia, Madame Weigal is credited with introducing Australian made paper patterns for the home seamstress which were available from 1878 to 1950.

In January 1900, T Lobb of George Street, Windsor had a dressmaking department with a Miss Long in charge. Freshly unpacked from the steamship SS Moravian, Lobb's advertised its new summer range including Zephyr, Muslins and Alpaccas (sic). Zephyr is a sheer, lightweight cotton fabric which takes its name from the ancient Greek god.

For those living in outlying districts, many utilitarian items as well as some luxuries were available from regular visits by hawkers such as Chajjoo (Charlie) Khan who carried a range of portable wares including fabrics and haberdashery.

Communities and isolated farms along the rivers didn't miss out and were supplied by the riverboat traders who plied the waterways from the late 19 th century to the 1920s. One of the earliest storeboats was operated by the eccentric Irishman, Charles George Hatte from the 1890s to 1903 and carried Muslins and mosquito netting.

The 20 th century saw the decline in the numbers of general stores across the Hawkesbury.

The last of their kind were Pulsfords which opened in George Street Windsor in 1935 to be followed by Hordern Bros in the same location and Woodhill Co of Richmond which closed in the 1970s.