Acorn Gowns

Today I’ve followed an interesting path, in search of information about the Melbourne fashion label Acorn Gowns.

It all started with this dressing gown: I have a thing for dressing gowns and what could be better than a crimson satin quilted one? This is one of two in my collection, the second one was featured in my book “Love Vintage” and is of a similar age. This one was made by Acorn Gowns for Melbourne department store Treadways.

40s satin dressing gown

I’ve seen quite a few nice dressing gowns from Acorn so I did a little googling and found a few things about them.

The earliest information I could find was a trademark registration in 1939, for the word “Glamora”, under “Class 25: Underwear, dressing gowns, blouses, costumes, frocks, hosiery, millinery, and other articles of women’s and children’s wearing apparel”. It’s not uncommon for trademarks to cover a wide range of products, to deter competitors but the Glamora name doesn’t seem to have been used much as I couldn’t find any garments under the name.

Then in 1948 there’s a second trademark registration, this time for Acorn and again for Class 25 but this time the list of garments covered is more limited (the category must have changed in the interim) “Outerwear, underwear, sleeping garments and dressing gowns” and these are the types of fashion that I’ve found on my travels. Especially dressing gowns and nightgowns.

Here’s an advert from the Adelaide Courier Mail for an Acorn dressing gown available from McWhirter’s shop in 1949:
McWhirters 1949 900
The text reads “Soft Flannel Gown, Delightfully cosy Acorn Gown in soft flannel. Long scolloped (sic) collar and pocket trimmed fine cord. Generous wrap over. Silk girdle [plaited sash]. Rose, red, saxe, SW, W, OS, XOS” followed by pricing. “Saxe” is a light blue colour, with a hint of grey.

So my satin dressing gown with the Acorn label is likely to be around ’48 – they could have been trading under the name prior to applying for the trademark.

Acorn 40s satin gown label 300
Label from the late ’40s satin dressing gown. This is a much loved gown: you can see how faded the label is.

I also have a second Acorn dressing gown, a summer version that is deadstock and has little grub roses embroidered on the quilted collar – and this one features a different label suggesting it’s more modern than the satin one, although it could just be different because Treadways designed the other one.

40s housecoat

Acorn 40s housecoat label 300
Label from late ’40s cotton dressing gown.

This one is also more of a housecoat, as I can see someone wearing this around the house to do her chores. It has nice, deep pockets.

In 1951 “Acorn Gowns Ltd” registered as a public company, along with its subsidiaries Gowners Pty Ltd and A&G Services so from here, data is published annually in newspapers – so I can tell you that the following year sales were up 47% “despite difficult trading conditions”.

I found job ads for a “typiste/model” in ’51 and a stenographer in ’52 at the Collingwood factory located at 37 Wellington St Collingwood. The stenographer job included “free lunch, morning and afternoon tea” suggesting there was an onsite canteen. I know this location well because it’s close to where Circa’s stockroom used to be in Langridge St and it’s one of the larger buildings in this neighbourhood.

In 1954 stock and overheads were reduced to increase profits and in 1958 they closed their annexe in Ringwood and consolidated all production at Collingwood, expanding into a building next door. Sales were up 5%.

Things didn’t go so well for Acorn in ’59 though, with an increased demand for inferior products and synthetic fabrics. They had to sell their woollen dressing gowns for less money to remain competitive and then they entered into an agreement with a well known American company for current fashion trends and production methods. I wonder which one?

Like many local fashion companies at this time, business continued to deteriorate and in 1961 Acorn reported a loss. Two years later they wrote off the loss but by 1966 were in profit for the third year in a row and paid dividends to the investors for the first time since ’58/59.

Detailed records of Acorn Gowns Ltd can be found at the National Library of Australia, who have copies of financial reports from 1966-1967 and the University of Melbourne archives hold a collection of newspaper articles and annual reports on Acorn, from the JB Were Collection.

Acorn peignor set late '60s label 300
Here’s a label from late ’60s nightgown with matching peignoir – note the two sizing systems: the old alpha system is XSSW and the new, numeric system is a size 10. These sizes are equivalent to a modern size 6.

Acorn Housecoat mid 70s label 300
A label from mid to late ’70s dressing gown. Note that the detailed sizing of the past has given way to a generic “Medium”.

Acorn Gowns Ltd was deregistered in ’79, when the name was changed to Acorn Securities Limited which then changed again in 1990 to Indonesian Diamond Corporation Ltd. IDC was removed in 1996.

Not surprisingly, I can’t find anything to suggest that Acorn Securities or IDC manufactured fashion, although there is a post-script: Acorn Gowns were respondents to a court dispute in 1980. I wonder what that was about? Ah, the internet, full of information but rarely the full story.

Thank you, Acorn for the beautiful dressing gowns. I’ll be keeping my eye out for this label.


  1. Nicole,

    I own two acorn dressing gowns.. Both fantastic quality. One is so lovely I wear it as a summer wrap dress. I will send through pics of the labels and gowns later if you like.

    Kind regards,

  2. Hi Rachelle – yes please! I’d love to see them. I found another yesterday in my stash, decidedly late ’30s so I wonder if they were using the name for quite a while before the trademark. This one is silverblue satin and has a different label with a small image of an acorn on it. I shall have to take photos and add it to this post too.

  3. Hi would just like to share my great Aunty Jess owned Acorn and she employed my mother Jess and her sisters Kath,Marie, Patricia. During the 40s to support the war effort they also made silk parachutes. My Mum had the most amazing debutante and later wedding dress made out of French lace that Aunty Jess was able to procure through her contacts during the war. Can provide photos if you are interested.

  4. Hi. I have a crimson quilted gown that looks the same as the one your photo. It does not have a label however. It belonged to my mother who would have bought it in 1949 as a new bride. How would you advise to clean it? Hand wash or dry clean it ?

  5. Hi Diana, I operate on the principle that all boudoir wear is washable as I simply can’t see our grandmothers dry cleaning them. So hand wash in lukewarm water with a mild detergent, rinse well and gently squeeze the water out before drying flat on a towel in the shade. These crimson dyes of the late ’40s tend to run easily so that’s why the water needs to be a low temperature and if you do see any sign of running, whip it out and rinse in cold water. The same dyes fade easily in the sun, hence why care needs to be taken – but they are beautiful and will last for many years if treated well.

  6. Hello Diana,

    My son forwarded me your archive and I’m the youngest daughter of the Managing Director of Acorn Gowns Ltd. Leslie Lewis Blood. He was an accountant with Horneman McCaw and Oldfield and had audited the books in the 1940’s and was asked to take the company forward. He died in 1975 and the company traded until it was bought for its Australian Share Listing by a gold prospecting company hence the name change to Acorn Securities. Both my sister and I were too young to carry on the business.

    I have many happy memories of visiting the factory and trying on the beautiful gowns and still have one in my wardrobe. They brought back a small factory in Ringwood in the late 60’s for piece work (only about 6 or 7 ladies). They then made gowns exclusively for Myer with a few small changes to frills, stitching or other trims to make them stand alone from other small shops selling dressing gowns and nighties.

    During the 2nd World War the factory made parachutes (for people and smaller ones for supply drops). As a protected business my father didn’t need to enlist but was a reservist in the army non-the-less.

    Lots of happy memories and I’m glad you love them as much.

  7. I am reading this in 2020 because I googled Acorn. Carolyn Hunter writes that her great aunt Jess owned the factory. I googled because of Aunty Jess. She was my Great Aunt too, though by marriage. My grandmother May was her sister in law. They lived together with the extended family In a big house in Hawthorn. I spent the first year of my life in that house. I was going to contribute the story about the parachute production during the war, and then I read Carolyn’s piece. I was so amazed! Jess made my mother’s wedding gown by the way. Thank you for this research, it’s wonderful to see. I hope Carolyn will get to read this.

  8. Thanks for your comment, Tricia, I hope Carolyn sees it too! I love the idea of living with extended family in a big Hawthorn house: I imagine it had a wonderful garden too.

  9. Enjoying reading about Acorn but I think Acorn Ringwood was still operating in the 70’s or maybe even later. My mum was a forelady at Acorn. No dressing gown would be leaving Acorn unless it was ‘top notch.’ They were made to last and the girls took prode im their work.

  10. Hi, I am a bit late to this conversation. I just bought the most amazing Acorn dress from the op shop for $8 (it was a total steal!) Guessing it is the same brand on here. I had to give it a wash as it still heavily smelt of cigarette smoke, (so must be a 70’s original!) it is a beautiful floor length black floral with heavy decorated hems and wide sleeves dress (I don’t think it is a dressing gown) Just looking at it conjures up images of parties with deviled eggs, records playing and shag pile carpet. Wonderful!!! Thanks for the article, it is always so interesting to find out about fashion labels of the past. Kind regards, Erica

  11. Thanks for your comment, Erica: your dress (hostess dress?) sounds fabulous! I love how a garment can really conjour up a time and place, cigarette smoke and all. Time for a key party?

  12. Hi Nicole
    I have a men’s dressing gown (SPERO spun rayon British fabric, blue with white spots) with a label on it with both a picture of an acorn as well as the words ACORN 36
    Are you able to tell me if it’s vintage could be 1930’s or much later please?
    Kind regards,

  13. Hi Vicki, if you send me photos I can advise on age – men’s dressing gowns don’t vary much in style from the ’30s to the ’50s but the fabrics help narrow it down. It does look like the Acorn name was first used post-war so probably unlikely to be ’30s. But 36 is a small men’s size, suggesting it’s quite old. I look forward to seeing more!

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