The Friends of Werribee Park are sewing history together

Friday 24 May, 2024

In the serene backdrop of Werribee Park, a different kind of volunteerism is flourishing, far removed from the typical park activities such as weeding and planting.

Instead, the Friends of Werribee Park have begun a volunteer sewing group dedicated to creating and repairing period costumes that are worn around the grounds, bringing history to life for the thousands of guests who visit each year.

The costumes need to be meticulously maintained and periodically refreshed, so the Friends of Werribee Park formed the volunteer sewing group to create costumes that accurately reflect what life would have been like at the Werribee Park Mansion and its grounds in the late-1800s.

Costumed volunteers in the mansion

Photo: The Friends of Werribee Park volunteers help bring the historic Werribee Park Mansion to life by dressing up in period costumes.

Led by experienced seamstresses and history enthusiasts, the group gathers regularly in a cosy corner of the mansion, where the hum of sewing machines and the soft chatter of volunteers create a lively atmosphere.

Stacey has been volunteering at Werribee Park for nearly 20 years, after becoming “fascinated” by the costumed volunteers on a visit. It didn’t take much convincing for her to join the group and pull on a costume of her own.

“I have three costumes, depending on what I’m doing on the day. I have a ladies costume, a maid costume and a farm costume. If I’m spinning wool I need a farm costume, I don’t wear the maid costume very often but it’s there if I need it, and the one I mainly dress up in is a ladies costume, Stacey said.

It’s great because it really engages people. They’ll have lots of questions, particularly around the corset and undergarments.

Volunteers in period costume at Werribee Park Mansion

Volunteers in costume help bring Werribee Park mansion and its grounds alive, giving visitors an insight into what life would have been like in the late 1800s when the mansion was in its heyday.

A costumed volunteer in Werribee Park mansion

It's not just the gentlemen and ladies of the house that get to play dress-up, volunteers have painstakingly recreated costumes for the maids and farm workers as well.

The volunteer sewing group started after a fire had damaged and destroyed many of the Friends’ group costumes. 

“It was really sad, but we were able to salvage some of the pieces and repair them, and others we were able to take apart and use for other items.”

To help, we began to discuss the idea of having our own sewing group and getting people on board who knew how to mend and repair clothes and could make things for the tours to help our space really come alive,” Stacey said.

“The sewing group has only been going for a few years now but it’s really in full swing, and we’ve found even more volunteers to get on board.”

Volunteer sewing group member

Photo: The Friends of Werribee Park make and mend the late-1800s inspired costumes worn around the mansion.

The volunteers come from right across Melbourne (“We have one lady who comes all the way from Greensborough,” says Stacey), and all bring various skills to the table. Some are seasoned tailors, while others are learning the craft for the first time. They work with rich fabrics, intricate patterns, and detailed accessories, ensuring each costume is a true reflection of the era.

Another Friends of Werribee Park volunteer, Jeanie, said she had been volunteering in the Werribee Park State Rose Garden before being asked if she would join the sewing group.

“That’s how volunteering goes at Werribee Park – you start in one thing you find interesting, and then before you know it there’s so many other things that catch your attention and you become involved with,” Jeanie said.

“My background was sort of lycra and tutus for dance schools, so it’s been a real learning curve learning how to handle these different materials and be taught these new techniques.”

Volunteer member of the Werribee Park sewing group

Volunteers of the Weribee Park sewing group work out of the one of the many rooms in Werribee Park Mansion.

Volunteers work out of one of the rooms in the mansion

Volunteers at Werribee Park come from all walks of life, all different skillsets, and from right across Melbourne.

The costumes crafted by the group include elegant gowns, dapper suits, and accessories that capture the fashion of the Victorian era.

Each piece tells a story, not just of the mansion's history, but also of the hands that made them—volunteers dedicated to preserving the past while creating a vibrant present.

“We love the old crafts, we love showing off what we’ve got in our own backyard, and it’s been really rewarding as we’ve met the nicest people,” Stacey said.

We’re all passionate people about heritage, we love showing other people this is how things were. We love seeing their faces light up and get enjoyment from seeing how things were in the old days and learning about history.

We do it because we love it – we don’t do it because we have to, it’s because we want to.”


Volunteering in your local park and joining a Friends group like the Friends Werribee Park is a rewarding experience that allows you to connect with nature, make a positive impact on the environment, and be part of a vibrant community of like-minded individuals, with every contribution counting towards creating a sustainable future for our planet.

Click here to find out how you can volunteer in a park near you or subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest volunteering news and opportunities straight to your inbox.

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