Wednesday, June 29, 2011

May McCutcheon

This is a family photograph of my Great Grandmother, May McCutcheon, with a group of seven girls holding bamboo and paper fans.  Isn't it the most wonderful image?  Written on the backing board of the picture is: "May McCutcheon with class of fan dancers 1905 Hawkes Bay.  The photograph is mounted in the frame so that it is sitting against the glass, which has caused the surface of the photograph to break down and adhere to the glass where the pale blue marks are.   

Written above the photograph on the brown card the photograph is mounted on:

"These gave a fan drill item at the school concert"

and on the lower edge of the photograph: Pukahui.  

I love the dress May is wearing, and would love to recreate it, I know I say that all the time.

The photograph does not show all the detail of the dress, or what colour it is. but I love the gathered sleeves, with their wide lace frills. 

The girls are dressed in full gathered dresses with deep lace on their sleeves, and sashes across their shoulders that tie on the side at their waists.  There is a special name for these, but I just can't remember what it is, points for any clever darling who can though.

Don't you love the gathered sleeve with its little bow and lace frill?

The dresses look like they are made of soft cottons, maybe a muslin or lawn.

May's Vestee

This lace front belonged to May, and was recently given to me by an Aunt.  It inspired me to find out a little more about my Great Grandmother, who died before I was born.  The lace front was pinned on with the same safety pins you can see on the lower edge, and my Aunt remembers watching her pin it on under her jacket.

May's lace front is similar to the "Vestee" in this advertisement from a 1930 Sear's Catalogue,and it is likely to be from this era or a little earlier.  

A detail of the design on the lace.  If you want help identifying lace, the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney has a great reference for lace identification on its website:

A close up of the right side of the embroidered machine made net, or needle run lace.

A close up of the back of the fabric.


  1. Oooooh! CU-ute! Was May a teacher as well as a dance teacher? It looks like her blouse was white, but her skirt was a grey or dun, or possibly a pastel. I love, love, love all the details on her blouse, particularly the sleeves. It's giving me ideas for the 1905 blouse I'm working on!

    The vestee is darling too. I've been noticing a lot of that pastel lace/embroidery in the last few months. Emily's dress has the same thing on it.

  2. It is really lovely that you have this wonderful family photograph. The vestee is really beautiful! I love the subtle pastel embroidery. Good luck with your sewing.

  3. I do not think May was a qualified teacher, but I am not sure. I need to talk to my Mum. The blouse is so cool isn't it? I think it has a row of buttons running from the neckline to the top of the bust, what do you think?
    Fichu thanks for your comment, and yes I treasure this photograph, it is such a shame it is damaged, if only I could afford the services of a paper conservator.

  4. I always loved this photo, I used to have it in my bedroom and wow you have some of her costume how beautiful it is.

  5. When I showed Isabelle she said she didn't remember her, ha ha. But she thought the vestee was really pretty.

  6. Wow ... love the photo and what a beautiful heritage photo .... don't you just wish they had video cameras back then ..... would love to see the fan dance on u-tube !!!!!!

  7. It is a beautiful photo isn't it. I love that the dance was called a fan drill, and wouldn't it be great to see it performed, oh for a time travelling machine.

  8. Gawsh that's a bit fancy for Hawkes bay isn't it?! :P Very pretty