When held in convict institutions, convicts were made to wear what was essentially a uniform. The uniform differed across the convict institutions—Female Factories and the Anson Probation Station. Clothing issued on board the convict ships were supplied by the Admiralty.

The first convict ship direct into Van Diemen’s Land, The Morley in 1820, had a list of provisions on board as follows:

Navy Office

Transport Department

20th April 1820            

A List of Stores shipped on board the Morley Convict Ship, Robert Brown Master, for the use of 120 female convicts, passengers, and 50 children, during their voyage to New South Wales, or Van Diemen’s Land, and of clothing for the use of the convicts upon their arrival at the colony.

Clothing for the Use of the Convicts upon their Arrival.

Brown serge jackets, 120 : petticoats, 120 : linen shifts, 240 : linen caps, 120 : stockings, 120 pairs: shoes, 120 pairs : neck-handkerchiefs, 120 : beds complete, 170 : cots, 4 : hammocks slung, 6.

Clothing for 17 Male Children.

Blue kersey jackets, 17 : waistcoats, 17 : raven duck trowsers, 17 pairs : shirts, 51 : stockings, 34 pairs : woollen caps, 17 : neck-handkerchiefs, 17 : shoes, 17 pairs.

Clothing for 33 Female Children.

Brown serge jackets, 33 : petticoats, 33 : linen shifts, 66 : linen caps, 33 : stockings, 33 pairs : shoes, 33 : neck-handkerchiefs, 33.

Source:  Two Voyages to New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land – by Thomas Reid pp 16,17


Female Factory Clothing

What convicts wore when in Female Factories was stipulated in the Rules and Regulations for Female Houses of Correction. Convicts in each of the three Classes were distinguished by markings on their clothing.

  • 1st Class convicts wore the uniform without any distinguishing mark.
  • 2nd Class convicts wore the uniform with a large yellow C on the left sleeve of the jacket.
  • 3rd Class convicts wore the uniform with a large yellow C in the centre of the back of the jacket, one on the right sleeve, and another on the back part of the petticoat.

Each female convict in a Female Factory (from 1829) was issued with the following clothing made of cheap and coarse materials:

  • 1 cotton or stuff gown or petticoat
  • 1 jacket
  • 2 aprons
  • 2 shifts
  • 2 caps
  • 2 handkerchiefs
  • 2 pair stockings
  • 1 common straw bonnet of strong texture

There are also records in the Punishment Book of 1851-4 of women in the Cascades Female Factory having to wear 'punishment dress' of a black cap and a black short-sleeved jacket as a punishment for misconduct.


In 'Backward Glances', G.P. recalls the Crime (3rd) Class convicts wearing brown serge uniforms with a red C on the back of the uniform and right sleeve, with a white mop cap.

On 11 February 1845, the Superintendent of the Launceston Female Factory sent a memo to B Bayly Esq. outlining the clothing issued to female convicts at the Establishment (ML, CY2283).

Female House of Correction
February 11th 1845


The mode adopted at this Establishment for supplying the convicts with clothing is the Sup makes a demand for what he thinks necessary for the quarter. The clothing is issued and required by circumstances and worn by the convict as long as serviceable. When unserviceable the clothing is stored and kept until inspected and condemned by the Ordnance. Great care is taken that the clothing is made to last as long as possible by repairs.

The usual annual allowance to each woman is viz

Hobart Launceston  
3 2 Serge petticoats
3 2 Serge jackets
4 4 Pairs shoes
4 4 Shifts
3 4 Aprons
4 4 Pair stockings
4 4 Caps
4 5 Handkerchiefs

Which is generally about the annual requisition. The usual practice is when women are received whose sentence is over three months, new suits are issued them and those under that period, with old.


Note that Hobart in this instance refers to Cascades Female Factory.


Anson Clothing

The convicts on board the Anson Probation Station wore different clothing to those convicts in the Female Houses of Correction.

Edward Bowden, Superintendent of the Anson Probation Station sent a letter regarding the clothing of female convicts on board the Anson to the Principal Storekeeper on 10 February 1845 (reference ML, CY2283).

10 February 1845


For the information of the Comproller General and in explanation of the accompanying return of clothing issued to the Females in this Establishment I have the honor to state that each woman on  joining the Ship is supplied with the following articles

Shift   one
Petticoat blue one
Petticoat brown one
Dress blue one
Apron blue one
Neckerchiefs   one
Caps day one
  night one
Stockings pairs one
Shoes pairs one

These articles, shoes excepted, are changed, washed & mended weekly, the blue dress every third week. The whole are kept as far as possible in thoro' repair.

Each woman leaving the Establishment and having no clothes of her own is furnished as follows.

Shifts   two
Aprils   one
Neckerchiefs   two
Petticoat brown one
Dress brown one
Cap day one
Stockings pairs two
Shoes pairs one

The blue dresses are never parted with but are reserved for successive wear as the livery or uniform of the Establishment.

It will be seen by the return that the consen...tition[?] of clothing is very durable in this Establishment, not exceeding one entire suit per annum, & must be attributed to the arrangement in question as well as to the care taken in keeping the several articles in repair.

The blue cotton stripe dress is also a stronger material than the ordinary brown prison dress & consequently wears better.

If I may be allowed to give an opinion as to the clothing required annually for this Establishment I should consider that one blue dress and one brown suit with two of each of the other articles would be amply sufficient at least according to our present experience.

I beg to add that as a matter of economy as well as of discipline I consider the use of the blue stripe cotton dress as a uniform for this Establishment of the greatest importance and beg that if possible we may continue to be supplied with it and to hope that every effort will be made for that purpose.

I have the honor to be Sir Yr very obedient Servant
Edwd Bowden

Admiralty Clothing

The Tasmania sailed from Dublin on 2 September 1845 on her second voyage as a female convict transport carrying 138 female convicts and 37 of their children. The convicts and their children were supplied with the following articles of Admiralty clothing (ref: ML, CY1366 Clothing List for Tasmania 1845).

1 Jacket Kersey Jacket Shift
1 Serge Petticoat Waistcoat Cap
1 Flannel Petticoat Trowsers Pair of Stockings
1 Pair of Stockings Cotton Shirt Pair of Shoes
1 Shift Pair of Stockings Handkerchief
1 Linen Cap Pair of Shoes  
1 Handkerchief Woollen Cap  
1 Apron Neckerchief  
1 Pair of Shoes    




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For academic referencing (suggestion only) Database: [http address], FCRC Female Convicts in Van Diemen’s Land database, entry for xxxx ID no xxx, accessed [date].

For academic referencing (suggestion only) Website:  Female Convicts Research Centre Inc., accessed [date] from [http address].