Bridesmaid Fashion- 1883

Bridesmaid dresses have always played a role in just about any 19th Century wedding and especially during the 1880s and 90s. Today, we take a look at this circa 1883 example worn by a one Isabella Cameron Murray who was a bridesmaid at her sister’s wedding on March 21, 1883 in Sydney, Australia. This dress is also somewhat rare in that its provenance has been firmly established and can be firmly dated to 1883.1For a full account of Isabella Murray and the significance of the wedding, the full story can be found HERE.

Bridesmaid Dress, c. 1883; Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, NSW, Australia (A7538)

The bodice and skirt are constructed from a creme-colored merino wool fabric and trimmed with lace on the neck, cuffs, and skirt. The skirt is trimmed with four rows of ruching and the bottom hem has long box pleats. The skirt bottom has a hem guard that appears to be of a dark blue sateen and, according to the museum website, is also lined with the same dark blue sateen. Finally, the rear of skirt has a built-up train topped off by a large blue silk satin bow. Below are close-ups of the bodice:

The bodice is closed with pearl glass buttons and they’re fully functional.

And more of an extreme close-up. Note the twill weave pattern of the fashion fabric.

Another close-up of the fashion fabric:

And now for some side profile views:

The dress silhouette could be characterized as “transitional” in that while it still retains much of the cylindrical shape of the earlier Mid-Bustle/Natural Form Era, there’s also a much more developed train that was no doubt support by some sort of bustle support. It’s not quite as extreme as the later “shelf bustle” styles of Late Bustle Era of the mid to late 1880s but it’s heading in that direction.

Below is a close-up of the ruching on the skirt front:

And finally, some of the lace trim:

This is definitely could be considered a more modest, practical dress based on the use of wool merino as the fashion fabric and the minimal trim and it would have seen a lot of use as a “best dress” after the wedding. Perhaps the fabric choice was more a function of not wanting to upstage the bride or simple economics but either way, it’s an interesting example of a dress worn for a formal occasion that’s not made of a silk satin and that alone makes it compelling to us. We hoped that you’ve enjoyed this glimpse of 1880s bridal fashion, especially as it applies to the often maligned “bridesmaid dress.” 🙂


And Now For A Little Finnish Wedding Style

Today we wander back to a more historical wedding dress theme, travelling (virtually) to Finland to take a look at this interesting wedding dress that was made in 1882 for a one Constance Sofia von Scharnhorst (nee Von Ammondt ):

Wedding Dress c. 1882; Finnish Board of National Antiquities (KM 41072)

This dress follows a fairly conventional early to mid 1880s silhouette; the “natural form” style was passé and was once again shifting towards a trained/bustle style. Although there’s not a lot of detail about specific materials, it can be safely assumed that we’re looking at a silver gray/gray silk taffeta and/or silk satin. The skirt and bodice front have detailed ruching along with silk satin cross-hatching running in a strip, spiraling up the skirt front. Below the satin strips is a duller-toned fabric, probably silk taffeta. The same cross-hatching is also present in the  three-quarter sleeves and is reminiscent of Renaissance styles. Completing the skirt decoration is a strip of lace mounted below the cross-hatching.  The overall effect is interesting in that while the basic gray color appears the same, the dull and shiny lusters of the various fabrics creates the illusion of there being different colors. Of course, we may be wrong since we only have two photos to go on but it’s still interesting. Finally, it must be noted that the hem consists of three rows of knife pleating. And here’s a more detailed view of the skirt:

As can be seen from the above detail picture, there’s a lot of decorative style effects going on here, perhaps too much, but it’s a wedding dress… 🙂 What’s also interesting is that the train is relatively plain compared to the main skirt. The overall effect is amazing and it just staggers the imagination thinking about all the hours that went into creating the various effects for the skirt alone. This is definitely a magnificent dress and we look forward to one day replicating this style, or a close approximation, for one of our clients. 🙂



The Lucy Wedding Dress & Victorian Fashion

Today’s post probably more properly belongs in the Halloween post category but well…it’s been a crazy year so we’re a bit belated…but more seriously, bridal fashions have always been an integral part of Western culture and especially more so in recent years as a whole multi-million dollar industry has been built around the act of getting married. When bridal fashion is combined with the horror movie genre, it becomes a commentary about society. In this post we do some deep-diving into Victorian Era social mores and while we may be admittedly reaching a bit with our conclusions, we hope it provides some interesting food for thought so we invite you to come along with us for the ride… 🙂


Bridal dresses have always been a basic part of our business and whether contemporary or old, bridal styles have always been fascinating to us. Today we take a look at bridal dresses from a slightly different perspective with the Lucy wedding dress from Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 film Dracula and it’s quite a fright (and that’s before Lucy makes her dramatic transformation into a vampire). The film is supposedly set in 1897 and thus it would be reasonable to assume that the costuming would reflect this but in reality it’s more like the mid to late 1880s for at least for some of the dresses and for the Lucy wedding dress, it’s a bit more uncertain…

Our first take on this dress was that it underscores Lucy’s transformation from a seemingly innocent girl into a vampire, the epitome of pure evil and corruption. This is not an original interpretation on our part, it’s been put forward that Lucy’s fate is that of the Victorian female who dared to flout the dominant social conventions that dictated that females were to be subservient, compliant, and certainly NOT sexual in any way that was not connected with procreating children.

dracula2

Lucy Before…

What is interesting in the above picture is how Lucy’s head appears to be disembodied, the rest of Lucy’s body hidden. It’s an interesting use of foreshadowing, given Lucy’s ultimate fate.

dracula

Lucy After…

However, Lucy “breaks” the rules and is “punished” by becoming a cursed, hyper-sexed creature motivated by a thirst for blood. The erotic overtones are hard to miss. At the same time, Lucy’s transformation into a vampire also mocks Victorian convention and especially when we see Lucy returning to her crypt holding an infant in her arms, no doubt her next meal. This is mockery at its most grotesque.

Turning to the dress itself, the dominating feature that one cannot fail to see is the large lace collar that’s vaguely reminiscent of a large Elizabethan ruff. Emphasizing the head, the first thing that came to mind when we first saw it was the head of John the Baptist on a platter. On one level it made for some interesting horror movie theatrics but on another level, it was a bit disturbing.

 

Turning to the dress itself, below is probably some of the historical inspiration for the Lucy wedding dress:

Bildnis_Margarete_Brömsen_Michael_Conrad_Hirt_(1613)

Michael Conrad Hirt, Margarete Brömsem, 1613

The above portrait captures many of the elements in the Lucy wedding dress although the collar/ruff on the Lucy wedding dress is circular. This is not a particularly flattering look but then again the 17th Century is not one of our most favorite periods for style so take this with a grain of salt. 🙂

And of course, things would not be complete without some more views of the dress:

Lucy, white funeral/wedding dress worn by Frost in Bram Stoker's Dracula. side front view.:

Once again, before…

Dracula Wedding/Burial dress:

And after…

Dracula:

Full Frontal View

eiko_ishioka_dracula_1

Concept Artwork by Eiko Ishioka

While the Lucy Wedding dress is fairly ahistorical from a style perspective, it nevertheless achieves the primary goal of adding impact to the characters and moving the story forward- the goal of costuming in any production- and it does so in a spectacular way. No matter how we feel about the scenes with Lucy becoming a vampire, it cannot be denied that it has a powerful impact on the viewer. Ultimately, it’s only a movie but it still touches on some dark themes still linger on to this day.



The Bridesmaid Dress

Bridesmaid dresses have been a staple of weddings for over 100 years and even today are a fixture for most weddings. For the typical wedding involving two or more bridesmaids, it is standard for the bridesmaids to be wearing dresses of a uniform style and color, thereby providing a canvas for the the bride to show brightly (after all, it is HER day… 🙂 ). However, the bridesmaid dress is often of a style that pleases nobody and in recent years there’s been a lot of resistance to the idea to the point where they’re being dispensed with for some.

Throughout the 19th and early 20th Centuries, wedding customs evolved and by the early 1900s, the typical wedding that we know today had taken form to include the distinct bridesmaid dress. Here are some examples:

Wedding Party c. 1900

Judging from the dress and hat styles, this was probably taken sometime around 1910 or so and what’s striking about it is that the bridesmaid dresses s are fairly uniform. While they appear to be of one style and made from the same material, there are variations in the trim on each woman’s skirt.

And here’s a few more from roughly the same time:

Victorian wedding group by lovedaylemon, via Flickr

In this picture, the bride is almost indistinguishable from the bridesmaids except for the hat.

It’s an interesting to see that uniform bridesmaid dresses were a thing a hundred years ago. In future posts, we’ll look a little further back so stay tuned! 🙂



Wedding Dresses- It Wasn’t Always A White Wedding

In contrast to today, the term “wedding gown” was far more flexible in the late 19th Century than it is today. When we think of a wedding gown, we invariably think of some sort of dress that’s in some shade of white or ivory that’s only worn once on the wedding day and then stored away forever, unless a descendant chooses to wear the dress for their wedding. However, in recent scholarship, it’s been noted that the concept of the “white wedding” with its one-use wedding gown is a fairly recent development, as much a product of merchandising as social convention. During the late 19th Century, a wedding dress was typically a woman’s “best dress,” often enhanced by netting, lace, and flowers (especially orange blossoms). The dress was definitely meant to be worn long after the wedding and in fact, the idea of having a dress for that’s only worn once and then stored away forever was considered the height of wastefulness. With that said, here’s just one example of what a wedding dress could be, at least if we accept the Walsall Museums’ description:

Day Dress c. 1885

Day Dress, c. 1885; Walsall Museums (WASMG : 1976.0832)

Day Dress c. 1885

Side Profile

Unfortunately the photography is not the best…style-wise this is mid-1880s with a defined train/bustle and is constructed from a silver-gray silk satin for the overskirt and bodice combined with a silk brocade floral pattern for the underskirt, under bodice and sleeve cuffs. The bodice is constructed to create the effect of a jacket over a vest (although these were usually made as a single unit) and the red flowers on the silk brocade provide pops of red that add richness and variety to what would otherwise be a somewhat dull monochromatic silver-gray dress.

Day Dress c. 1885

Close-up of front bodice.

And here’s a nice close-up of the silk brocade fabric:

Day Dress c. 1885

Close-up of fashion fabric.

Here’s a couple of more pictures (although the color is a bit off):

Day Dress c. 1885

Three-Quarter rear view.

Day Dress c. 1885

The red flowers on the silk brocade panels definitely draws the eye up and fixes the viewer’s eyes (As should be the case with all bridal dresses!). Of course, as with much of fashion history, there’s rarely any absolutes and this was the case with using “regular” colors versus the more bridal colors of white and ivory during the 1880s. However, in the end, it’s important to realize that the dividing lines between “bridal” and non-bridal were not as rigid was we tend to view them today (although that’s changing). This was just a brief glimpse into the world of bridal dresses during the 1880s and that there are alternatives to the “traditional” when it comes to bridal dresses. 🙂