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Ivory Silk Wedding Gown, c. 1865-7

Materials: Ivory silk and wool broadcloth, lined with white glazed cotton, silk buttons, white silk fringe.

The silhouette of this lovely gown follows the classic lines of the era, with a full skirt shaped to be worn over the elliptical-shaped hoop of the post-Civil War period. The close-fitting bodice features 8 ornate decorative buttons down the front, which fastens with hidden hooks and eyes. The simply bound neckline is plain, presumably awaiting a lace collar and brooch, customary neckline adornments. A bow and fringed sash highlight the natural waistline and add back interest, and the moderately full 'coat' style sleeves are unadorned. Although minimal in its' applied decoration, this is an elegant outfit, clearly made to be used exclusively as a wedding gown - indicating the wearer was of a higher social status during a time period when many women were married wearing dressy day clothing or smart travelling outfits that could serve double duty in one's daily wardrobe.


White Cotton Bridal Ensemble, c. 1879 -82

Materials: White cotton batiste, narrow tape ties, rounded and flat pearl buttons.

After the 'collapse' of the large hooped styles in the 1870's, fashion still dictated fullness and elaboration in ladies' skirts, now swept back over a "tournure" - a bustle. Like most day and formal outfits of the time, this ensemble has multiple pieces. The underskirt is full, with most of the fabric swept towards the back, and is decorated "en tablier" down the front with tiered ruffles. Over this, the wearer donned an overskirt, which parted up the center front and had the side fullness gathered into ornamental strips of vertical ruching. A basqued (skirted) bodice with 3/4 sleeves and a buttoned front completes the outfit. Beautifully detailed with multiple rows of narrow tucking, this gown was most likely made for a spring or summer wedding. With its' crisp white cotton fabric and unfussy lines, this feminine dress would have been worn over white petticoats and a small bustle.

By the 'Gay 90's", the look of "Gibson Girl" was the rage. The silhouette is immediately identifiable - the huge 'gigot' or 'leg-o'-mutton' sleeves, a diminutive, corsetted waistline, and sweeping, circular skirts.
Brides had never looked so fragile and romantic.


Ivory Silk Bengaline Ensemble

Materials: Heavy ivory silk bengaline, lined in glazed cotton; crinoline and lace under-ruffle

Relatively plain at first sight, this gown is thoroughly elegant in its simplicity. The darted and flared skirt is trained, with heavy folds of silk lined in cotton and swept backwards, held in position by horizontal elastic bands in the lining. Crinoline pleating tacked onto the lining hemline helps maintain the formal shaping. The bodice features an angled yoke outlined with bias piping and has its high neckline wrapped with soft bias folds of the silk, with a silk rosette at the closure.

Fashionable hour-glass shaping is achieved with long vertical bust darts converging at a pointed center front waist. The front closes with hidden hooks and eyes. Very full one-piece sleeves are pleated into the shoulder and fitted from elbow to wrist. A delicate edging of pearls trims the wrist edges and collar. The tiny matching faille toque with long ivory ribbon streamers and fabric rosettes completes the outfit.


Fawn Spotted Silk

Materials: Beige/fawn color silk woven with minute white dots; glazed cotton lining; ivory silk ribbon

Since many brides might choose to wear their finery later for other dressy occasions, some opted for colors other than a solid ivory or white for use as wedding garments.

Done in a very lightweight silk, the fabric is a pale fawn color woven with tiny overall ivory dots - pretty enough for a bride, but suitable as well for after-wedding wear! The sweeping skirt is round rather than trained, and is lined with a sturdy light brown polished cotton, with a ruffle under the hem to help hold its shape. The delicate silk bodice closes in front with hooks and eyes concealed in the folds of the asymmetrical cross-over front . A standing collar is wrapped with an ivory silk ribbon and large rosette bow at the center back. Gathered upper sleeve poufs disappear into lower sleeves so snug the wrist seam has been left open just far enough for a delicate hand to fit through. More ivory ribbon bows perch atop the shoulders

This ensemble was accompanied by a note : "Mother Peck's wedding dress and miscellaneous items"which included a pair of natural-color linen and kid low, laced-front shoes with silk faille ribbons.

 In both 1890's outfits the bodices are lined, and re-inforced with whalebone stays in casings and inner bodice belts. The Fawn Silk gown has 'bodice protectors'- underarm shields. Artificial wax or silk, or fresh flowers, or bridal jewelery of pearls would complete the bride's finery.


Formal Dress, 1892-1900, bodice and skirt

Materials: Ivory silk faille, lined with tan glazed cotton, trimmed with ivory silk lace and narrow black velvet ribbon.

This charming dress is very restrained for a dressy garment, just a touch of very delicate lace to softening its' look; and the black velvet ribbon adds a note of contrast to the ivory silk.
Well made, though possibly home-made, the bodice is close-fitting, pointed in front and back, with a center front hook and eye closure.The tiny waist (22-1/2") is further reduced visually by double bust darts and a number of center front pleats. A length of fine, scallop-edged lace is caught up in loose swags over the front, back, and over the shoulders by black ribbon rosettes. Sleeves feature tiny pin-tucks horizontallyacross the width near the shoulder, and, for the period, show minimumfullness. The skirt, lined with glazed cotton, is full and graceful, with a train suitable for a formal function. Feminine but unfussy, a self-fabric ruffle, banded with velvet ribbon, edges the lower skirt. Narrow blackribbon, sewn at spaced intervals around the high collar, wrist edges and waistline, with the occasional looped rosettes,make this a dramatic and lovely outfit.



Net and Applique Gown , 1899-1905

Materials: Various patterns of decorated net and laces, applique of cotton floral motifs, three-dimensional crocheted flowers and 'grapes'.

Sumptuous in appearance, and stunning in its textural variety, this gown from the turn of the century personifies the Edwardian lady's fondness for rich surface decoration, whether in formal or day clothing. Guided by such coutouriers as the House of Worth in Paris, American womens' fashions soon discarded the huge sleeves and angular skirts of the Gibson Girl, and began to take on a softer, slimmer look.

This sophisticated gown, built on a foundation of cotton netting, is overlaid with a variety of crocheted and hand-applied floral and three-dimensional motifs. Features include a center front closure with a standing, wired fan collar and 3/4 sleeves.

Rose Silk Chiffon Afternoon Dress, 1908-9

Materials: Rose silk chiffon over thin cotton lining; pink cotton net and embroidery

Created in a muted shade of rose-pink, this afternoon dress is the perfect attire for a lady wedding guest during the Edwardian Era.

In contrast to the light and flowing material from which it is made, the design incorporates numerous angular accents in the design. The silk is lined with a very fine cotton, also pink, to enhance the color, and the body of the dress is shaped in long, princesse-style panels, which terminate in a softly pleated ankle-length skirt. The center front panel, which runs from the bodice to hem, and elbow-length upper sleeves are cut from rose chiffon which had been pre-sewn with tucks, worked horizontally, a feature very popular in 1908-9, and adding an interesting textural change. A low, square neckline on the chiffon dress is 'filled in' with a partlet and simple band collar of pink silk netting embroidered with pink soutache flowers and heavy grayish-pink meandering floss vines in a large chain stitch. This embellished net also forms the fitted lower sleeves. Wide 'epaulets' extend down the bodice front panel to enhance the vertical character of the design. The dress fastens down the back with hooks and eyes.

Though now in fragile condition, this must have been a very pretty dress in its time, and still well worth seeing for its graceful lines and detailing. When one examines the inside, the interior sewing technique (or lack of it) and execution, rather than complexity of construction, indicate that it was the product of an ambitious and style-conscious home seamstress rather than a professional. 


White Cotton Afternoon Gown, 1914-1918

Materials: White cotton with heavy filet lace bands.

"The Great War" - World War I - had a profound effect on fashion as a whole, as women participated in activities outside the home to a greater degree than ever before. Clothing incorporated these changes, allowing more freedom of movement, shorter skirts, and of course, less restrictive underpinnings! This dress reflects all these influences, and must have been a comfortable and pretty choice for a warm-weather wedding.

This simple one-piece afternoon dress, in white cotton, is a 3/4 "tea" length. The low V-neckline, edged with heavy white cotton lace extending to the side-closed waistline, and shorter sleeves make an ideal and comfortable combination for a summer dress. Interesting period construction is exhibited in the "Maygar" style dropped sleeve design, anticipating the softer unconstructed looks which will soon follow the wartime years.


 The 1920's

"The Roaring Twenties" . . . this chapter in our history has a look all its own! In an era of extremes, brides still wanted to find that 'special dress', and two quite different examples display some of the variations possible within "The Flapper Era" bride!


Lace and Beaded Gown, 1926

Materials: Embroidered lace panels, 'english' net, satin, chiffon, beads and pearls, artificial flowers.

Worn by a very stylish young lady, this dress is an ideal example of the delicacy and ephemeral quality of so many formal garments from this era. A delicate overdress of embroidered lace panels hangs loosely from its' attached chiffon and satin lining. Short English net sleeves just cover the upper arms. The 20's dropped waistline is emphasized by a heavily beaded sash encrusted with pearls and crystals which circles the body, then drops as a narrow panel down the front of the dress. A large fabric, wax and lace flower is positioned on the sash over the right hip. This cobweb confection would have been worn over the minimum of undergarments (perhaps just a 'teddy', a lightweight camisole/slip/ panty combination).

A photograph of the original bride, at her wedding in 1926, shows the dress in its proper setting. Also shown are the original shoes accompanying the outfit.

Ivory Silk Crepe Dress

Materials: Silk crepe, english net, bugle beads

Although it is easy to picture most styles on younger brides, this dress seems perfect for the more mature and sophisticated woman. Done in champagne color silk crepe, it skims the figure, flowing to a 3/4 length hemline. Typical of the period, there is an underbodice of a soft netting, and an overdress and skirt attached into the lowered waist. Perhaps evoking a romanticized, medieval theme, the drapery of the tunic-style top is sideless, and bloused loosely into the waist seam; and the 3/4 length sleeves of crepe (set into the net underbodice) open onto an exaggerated trumpet-shaped flare that Guenevere might envy.

Distinctive in cut, there is a touch of subdued glitter in the use of white bugle beads and a decorative running stitch which follows the lines of the garment, and give a hint of weight to hanging sections. A wide sash accents the hipline, and a narrow panel of plain crepe hangs vertically to the hemline to add a bit of motion when the wearer moves.

 Different accessories suitable to the bride's toilette are displayed near the appropriate model for the era.
These include underdrawers, a chemise, petticoats, gloves, a small hooped petticoat, a wire bustle and a lady's nightgown.
Veils and headdresses are modern reconstructions.


All clothing in the exhibition is from the costume collection of the Friends of the Grange.
Display co-ordinated by Lynn Symborski.
Many, many hugs and thanks to Oxana "Rumpleteaser" Chomenko-Szwec for her assistance in set-up.
Grateful thanks to Joe Ackerman for building the 'ladies' as our models.

For further information on historic costume, contact L. Symborski, at

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