Sewing machine and stand

1953, Cast iron, chrome-plated tubular stand with red vinyl seat machine manufactured by Singer, model 210K

The Singer sewing machine was owned by the late Sylvia May Parsons (née Johnson) who was born on a property near Gunning, New South Wales in 1911. She came to Canberra in 1941 following her marriage to John Parsons and taught Home Economics at Kingston Technical College, a course that included dressmaking and design.

In 1948 Parsons saw a business opportunity for a ‘fashion house’ in Kingston and opened her own shop; straight away she was making around forty dresses a week. In time the Sylvia Parsons shops traded in four locations in Canberra: Kingston (1948-96); Manuka (1950-55); Civic (1955-63) and Woden (1972-90).

Sylvia Parsons and her fashion houses played a significant role in Canberra’s retail and social history, opening at a time when there were few retailers of good women’s clothes in Canberra. Her shops featured prominently in many women’s lives and Parsons maintained a regular and loyal clientele over nearly half a century. Her establishments were known for the quality of their staff and service. Parsons’s good business sense and involvement in local charitable organisations through groups such as the Soroptimists Club made her a ‘Canberra identity’.


105 x 70 x 82 (on stand)

Object number



Social History


Gift of Peter Parsons 2007