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. 🙂
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; Walsall Museums (WASMG : 1976.0832)
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.
Close-up of front bodice.
And here’s a nice close-up of the silk brocade fabric:
Close-up of fashion fabric.
Here’s a couple of more pictures (although the color is a bit off):
Three-Quarter rear view.
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. 🙂
And for a change of pace, we step back a few decades to circa 1878 with this wonderful Mid-Bustle Era/Natural Form day dress that’s identified as a wedding dress:
Wedding dress, c. 1878; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.18a, b)
Wedding dress, c. 1878; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.18a, b)
Below is a nice close-up showing details of the fashion fabric and some of the details.
This dress is constructed of an embroidered wine colored stripped silk satin for the overskirt and bodice combined with a purple silk satin for the underskirt, bodice front and cuffs. Finally around the cuffs, there’s a think band of the purple silk sating that’s been pleated and finished off with white lace. In terms of silhouette, this one is cylindrical, characteristic of the Natural Form/Mid-Bustle Era and has no train. The bodice is a cuirass style, falling over the hips. The decorate effect on the underskirt hem is interesting, employing a combination of pleating, ruching, and use of the stripped fashion fabric in the form of vertical tabs running along the upper hem.
Now, as for the dress being a wedding dress, this is a very possible. Unfortunately, there’s no documentation posted online at the Met Museum website and we can only assume that there is documentation but that it didn’t make it online for reasons unknown. But nevertheless, this dress could have been used as a wedding dress in that during the late 19th Century, the use of white as THE wedding dress color was not a rigid convention; a wedding dress was often a bride’s best dress and was meant for wear long after the wedding. Moreover, the idea that one would have a specific dress to be worn only on the wedding day and then put away was also not the norm and in fact, was simply not feasible for most people, not to mention that it was viewed as wasteful. The idea of the one-use wedding dress would start to develop towards the end of the 19th Century but only by the very rich. Ultimately, this dress presents a classic late 1870s/early 1880s day look and works for a variety of social occasions. 🙂
Today we take a look at an 1890 wedding dress from the V&A Museum that not only has extensive provenance, but it even has a picture of the original owner, a one Cara Leland Huttleston Rogers, wearing the dress on her wedding day on November 17, 1890. This is a rare treat indeed. To begin, here’s some pictures:
Francis O’Neill/Stern Brothers. Wedding Dress, c. 1890; Victoria & Albert Museum (T.276,A-F-1972)
This dress has the simple, clean lines characteristic of 1890s styles with the addition of a train. The dress is constructed of a cream-colored corded silk for both skirt and bodice. The skirt is relatively simple and unadorned except for some artfully arranged swagging along the hem, punctuated by rosettes. However, the bodice is a completely different matter- built on the same cream-colored corded silk, the bodice is framed in the front by a embroidered gold/mustard brown-colored floral appliques jeweled with pearls running along the middle of the bodice and continuing up to follow an open neckline. Below is a picture of the bride:
Cara Leland Huttleston Rogers, wearing the dress on her wedding day on November 17, 1890.
The neckline is further accented by a row of ruffled silk chiffon leading up to the shoulders. The shoulders are decorated with upright panels that further continue the decorative trim design and are heavily jeweled with pearls. The upper sleeves are ruched and while there’s fullness towards the top, it lacks of the extensive gigot sleeves so characteristic of the mid-1890s. Naturally, the cuffs are also finished with more silk chiffon. Finally, the peplums on the bodice are also accented by the jeweled embroidered applique strips that harmonize with the rest of the bodice’s decorative trim. Below are some close-ups of the bodice:
The decorative appliques are even more extensive on the bodice back:
The decorative design on the bodice is very unique and it definitely attracts the eye to the upper dress and puts focus on the bride. The relatively neutral cream skirt and bodice provide a blank canvas for the decorative design. This dress design is definitely unique and is an interesting take on bridal dress designs of the period.
I‘ve been slowly building a dress sample based on the styles of tea gowns and lingerie dresses from the 1899-1905 era for our Bridal line. This one is all fine sheer cottons, mostly pearl white worn over buttercream yellow, antique lace front panels and insertion, and dyed to match silk ribbon. Our original idea was to make this from white over blue…and then a friend gifted me with a bolt of vintage white and yellow dotted Swiss, and everything changed! 🙂