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“Here Come the Brides - Grace & Elegance - 1855 - 1950" Opens on April 25

posted Apr 12, 2014, 4:11 PM by Margaret McIntire   [ updated Aug 28, 2014, 2:03 PM by Julie Johnston ]
Two Piece Silk Satin Dress - Skirt panel jeweled with pearls and bugle beads, bustle and court train edged with self -pleating. The bride, Wealthy Albro, married Richard Lewis in 1883.
Exhibit open Tuesday through Thursday and Sundays from 12 noon to 5:00 pm

Friday, April 25, 2014, Six-thirty to Nine p.m.
Tickets: $50 for Members ($60 for Non-members) 

EVENING RECEPTION WITH CURATOR  Thursday, May 8, 2014, Seven to Nine p.m.
Tickets: $20 each for Members ($25 for Non-members) 

COFFEE MORNING WITH CURATOR  Wednesday, May 21, 2014, 9:30 a.m.
Tickets: $10 for Members ($15 for Non-members)

    Some bridal customs began in ancient times, others developed in the Victorian period. Centuries ago the bride wore a veil to avoid evil spirits. If the marriage was pre-arranged, the groom did not see the bride’s face until she lifted the veil after the ceremony.
     At the time of the Great Plague in London in the 17th century, the bride’s bouquet was aromatic with garlic and dill to ward off the stench of illness and death.  The color blue stood for faithfulness, so the bride wore a blue garter and included blue flowers in her bouquet. A sixpence in her shoe stood for wealth.  The ancient tradition of orange blossoms symbolizes purity. Queen Victoria wore a wreath of orange blossoms at her wedding. Wax orange blossoms, popular in Victorian times, are now collector’s items.
     In the twenties we saw less formal weddings. There were elopements with a Justice of the Peace performing the ceremony.  By the 1950s weddings again became more formal. We remember the elaborate first weddings of Elizabeth Taylor and Jackie Kennedy.
     Even in the 19th century, brides did not always wear white, many chose to wear their “Sunday Best”.  Queen Victoria, however, for her marriage to Prince Albert in 1840, wore a white gown of Spittlefields silk trimmed with English-made Honiton lace. It was her effort to support British industry.  Eugenie wore white velvet when she married Napoleon III in 1853. Together these Royals helped popularize the trend towards bridal white.

    The invention of the sewing machine and other advances in production techniques were important factors in the development of the Industrial Revolution. Costumes abounded with trimmings, pleatings and voluminous folds of fabrics. The middle class could now afford to hire caterers and florists for the wedding celebration of their very special bride. That marked the beginning of the wedding industry of today.

    From the mid 19th century until the early 20th century, the Fashion Story is the development and decline of the cage crinoline (hoop skirt), the bustle and the corset. The cage crinoline began to disappear when the front flattened and skirt fabric was drawn up in back. This produced a soft bustle. The bustle continued through the 1870s and 80s, interrupted only briefly by the tightly-corseted cuirasse bodice and Princesse silhouette. The bustle in its most extreme shape appeared in the 1880s. It extended from the small of the back horizontally causing some critics to compare it to walking upholstery.
   In 1890, the bustle disappeared and fashion focused on sleeves, a tiny corseted wasp waist, and flared skirt – the “hour glass” silhouette. The puffed sleeves grew to enormous size in 1896, echoing the opulence of the Gilded Age.
  Another change in focus at the turn of the century was the new Health Corset “designed to make breathing easier.” It thrust the bosom forward and hips back, producing an s-curve shape.
 This corset continued as the requirement of fashionable ladies until 1908 when the French designer, Paul Poiret, introduced a radical new silhouette: a high empire waist and slim column-like skirt. This enabled women to abandon the restrictive corsets they had endured for centuries – a welcome relief.
 And so, we see ever-changing fashion transformed from hoop skirts, bustles and corsets, through World War I, the twenties and World War II up to the romantic lines of the 50s – with hoops and crinolines all over again!