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Historic Wedding Dress Unveiled: A Piece Of Marton’s Heritage

With a remarkable example of this region’s history, Whanganui Regional Museum is about to unveil the next Ko te Kākahu o te Marama - Outfit of the Month: a stunning silk taffeta wedding dress worn by Alvine Augusta Voss for her wedding in February 1883.

Alvine Voss was born in Germany, in March 1858, and was 25 years old at the time of her marriage to 34-year-old Wilhelm Franke at the Lutheran Church in Marton.

The dress, made from silk taffeta and satin believed to be imported from Germany and tailored in New Zealand, showcases a fusion of machine and hand sewing techniques. Notable features include a stand-up satin collar, front fastening with hooks and handmade eyelets, and delicate hand-sewn ruching, gathering and buttonholes – a testament to the dedication and skill of its makers.

Alvine and Wilhelm’s granddaughter, Eileen Martin, with Alvine’s wedding dress, and a hand-coloured photograph of the couple in their later years. (Credit: Karen Hughes/Whanganui Regional Museum)

“We are pleased to have such an important piece of local history in our collection,” said Kaihāpai Taonga/Collections and Curatorial Lead, Trish Nugent-Lyne. “This dress not only represents a significant moment in the lives of Alvine and Wilhelm Franke but also provides insight into the craftsmanship and fashion of the late 19th century.”

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The exquisite dress was donated to the museum in 1993 by a descendant of Alvine and Wilhelm Franke; their granddaughter Eileen Martin. Eileen revisited the museum recently to support Trish Nugent-Lyne with her research into the dress, bringing with her a hand-coloured photograph of Alvine and Wilhelm Franke. Eileen revealed her unique position as the sole descendant of her father's marriage, “The Voss’s were farmers, and my grandfather turned to farming. Alvine had many children; my father was the last of them and I was the only child of his marriage (to my mother). The others were all much older and have all passed away. I’m the last of that line now.”

A dress of similar style and colour worn by Alvine’s sister, Caroline, at her wedding to Robert Ross the following year in 1884, is also part of the museum’s collection.

Kaihāpai Taonga/Collections and Curatorial Lead, Trish Nugent-Lyne will present and discuss Alvine’s dress with an informal public talk. Members of the public are invited to hear her presentation in the Museum at 12.15pm on Friday 3rd May.

Entry to the event is free. Koha for the Museum is always appreciated. No booking is required, all are welcome. The dress will be on display in the Museum throughout May.


Founded in 1892, the Whanganui Regional Museum is internationally renowned for its Taonga Māori Collection. Located in Pukenamu Queen’s Park, visitors can view the exceptional creations of tupuna (ancestors) of Whanganui tangata whenua (indigenous people) alongside a changing exhibition programme encompassing a world-class collection of natural and human history, with a regional emphasis. The ground level boutique museum store sells a range of local and Māori jewellery, books, cards, art, and other New Zealand-made gift items.

The Whanganui Regional Museum Trust is an independent legal entity that owns the collection and governs the development of the Museum on behalf of the Whanganui community.

Open to visitors daily from 10.00am to 4.30pm (except Christmas Day and Good Friday), entry to Whanganui Regional Museum is free. Connect with Whanganui Regional Museum at www.wrm.org.nz or on Facebook, and Instagram.

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