During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Australian women (and Melbournian women in particular) were chastised for extravagance in dress. Excessive expenditure on fashionable clothing was considered a threat to personal solvency and domestic tranquillity. Female profligacy was also deemed self indulgent and unpatriotic in periods of economic and military crisis. Drawing on Zelizer's [Zelizer VA. The social meaning of money. New York: Basic Books; 1994] study of The social meaning of money the paper examines how the state attempted to contain female extravagance in dress by re-orientating spending priorities in household budgets. The earmarking ideology of patriotic thrift was conveyed by apparatuses such as cultural and communications media, the political system and voluntary associations. The earmarking ideology represented an onslaught on fashionable dress, a means of asserting feminine identity in a patriarchal society. The study reveals budgetary earmarking as a social process, which is reflective and constitutive of gendered asymmetries of power in the home.