Child’s Fancy Dress

Collection Highlights | Updated 1 month ago

An ornate child's dress from the late 19th century
Child’s Fancy Dress
Image copyright of WA Museum

Worn by Western Australian-born Miss Rita Lloyd aged nine years to the ‘Lord Mayor’s Juvenile Fancy Dress Ball’ at Mansion House in London on 8 January 1909. The Ball hosted no fewer than 1200 ‘little masqueraders’, the London Sphere reported, all of whom appeared to put careful thought into their costumes.

Miss Lloyd was impersonating ‘Greater Britain’. A white silk bodice and skirt forms a background for the brightly coloured flags and badges of the different possessions of the British Empire in the predominant colour scheme of red, white and blue.

Also depicted are portraits of twenty governors or premiers of the ‘Kings Dominions Beyond the Seas’ including Sir John Anderson KCMG and His Majesty ‘taking place of honour over the little lady’s heart’.

‘Miss Greater Britain’ attracted the greatest attention at the Ball according to one newspaper article, and ‘appeared duly sensibly of the dignity and responsibility of representing those great and growing sections of our vast Empire . . . and in which is comprised so much of the future hope and destiny of Britain’. 

Not all parts of the original outfit have survived, including: an ‘Empire’ staff with red, white and blue streamers attached and surmounted by a small globe of the world; a large globe of the world in red, white and blue formed an ‘effective crown to the impersonation’; and white kid shoes ‘decorated in harmony with the dress’.  The outfit in its entirety was described by one London newspaper as ‘quaint but rather burdensome’, referencing the large size of the globe crown.

The dress was gifted to the Museum by Jennifer Collins, grand-daughter of Rita Lloyd, in 1987.

History Department collection