Old Wedding Dresses and what stories they could tell us? While scrolling through Facebook, as you do, I came across this old wedding dress for sale and although I really am not on the look out for old wedding dresses it did throw me back in time. Old Wedding dresses are something that I really love, they have stories to tell and sometimes you never realise until they have aged and maybe passed down to the next generation of the family. Some are sold as soon as they have served their purpose and been taken up by a new bride or even bought to be cut up and made into something else. Other things that are done with Old wedding dresses are given to the little girls for dressing up or made into a christening gown for the first child and then used by succesive children and maybe grandchildren.
But in thinking about old wedding dresses takes me back to the year 1986 when the Duke and Duchess of York were married, at the time I was the President of our village WI (a very small village and I was a very young President). Long before the engagement and marriage was announced of Prince Andrew to Sarah Ferguson the WI needed to raise funds and even then I had a fasination with old wedding dresses so I suggested we have a display of old wedding dress, and in particular those of the people who lived in the village. The whole exhibition was a nightmare to organise mainly because I more or less had to do the whole on my own and only at the last minute, which was staging the whole, did I have my fellow WI members come and help me. At the end of my search, cajolling and reminding everyone we had 8 or 9 old wedding dresses, which included mine.
The old wedding dresses dated from the 1800s to Prince Diana wedding era. I arranged them in date order so those coming to see the exhibition walk through time and into the present. Each dress had their own story, which was lovely, and what was more amazing was the timing of the said engagement and subseqent wedding of Andrew and Sarah, which highlighted our little display so much so that we were asked if our local radio could come along to the opening of our exhibition and interview me and some of the brides. Under instructions I did manage to rally some of the owners and brides of the old wedding dresses, most were very reluctant to talk with the radio people and froze when asked questions so I had to step in and tell the dresses story for them. Here are some of those stories, I am just sorry that I have no photos to show those dresses to you.
The first in line was the dress from the 1800s and unlike most wedding dresses was not white, but green. Back in the early 1800s you bought a very best dress for your wedding and didn’t think about the colour. There was no money for special ‘one day only’ occasion dresses so the wedding dress becomes the Sunday best dress for the girl/woman. This particular dress had been well looked after, as you realise being so old it had to have been to survive. But also this dress had in those years been loaned out each year for the Walkington Hayride possession. Hopefully the dress is still going and still being used, that first bride should be proud of their dress, how many other brides could say that their dress was still in use over a hundred years after that first purchase.
The second dress was very much a twenties dress. it was bought and worn by a lady in the village who bought it as a long white dress but knew that it would and could also be worn for dances, again being a multi purpose dress after the wedding. The dress we displayed was Red! The lady had cut the hem to shorten the dress and then dyed it red so she could go dances with her new husband in it. It was a lovely silk dress and dying and cutting the hem did no injustice at all.
Our third dress again had been bought and worn by a lovely lady in the village who had married later in her life, and I suppose would not be late in life nowadays. The lady also knew one of the dressmakers that worked for Norman Hartnell and she made her dress for her. The dress was not white, if I remember correctly it was pink and embrodaired. The front of the dress was very plain but elegant but it was the back of the dress that had all the detail, and quite rightly so because in the traditional wedding it is mostly the back of the dress that the guest see throughout the ceremony. This particular dress had a very large bow! Which again was a great co-incidence because if you remember Sarah Ferguson’s dress also had a very large bow on the back too.
the next dress that I can remember was a sixties stlye dress very straight but again very elegant with a pillow box head dress with a veil very sixties
Then there was my wedding dress, early seventies and unique in the fact that in amongst all the lovely long elegant wedding dresses mine was actually a mini dress! We were getting married in a registrar office so I was going to wear a very uptothe minute lilac trouser suit but there were so many comments about me not wearing white that my mother was a bit upset so I decided to make my own dress which is what I did with the help of my sister we hand sewed it all apart from the front zip, which we took home and did using my mother’s sewing machine. I have to say that I never regreted making or wearing it, it fitted the wedding and I still have it hanging in my wardrobe, although it is now more yellow than white, and I occasionally bring it out to show todays youngsters not just how slim I use to be but also how short our skirts use to be, they are always shocked on both accounts and wonder how I dared wear such a short dress. Sadly I don’t have any wedding photos but I have photoed the dress but it does not do it justice on a hanger.
After my dress there was an eighties wedding dress again very elegant and I have to admit that the only thing that I can remember is that the lady who owned it apologised because the dress had had red wine spilt on it at her wedding and she had never bothered to have it cleaned, so the red stain was now a brown stain but it added to the life of her wedding dress.
There were other dresses that I have to admit I cannot remember most but the last one belonged to my neighbour, a young girl who had been married the year before and had a typical Princess Di wedding dress, all puffy sleeves and belling skirts. We were honoured to be invited to their wedding. They moved into the cottage next door to us and we became good friends immediately so were given the invitation to the wedding. A few years afterwards her middle sister got married and wore the same dress and she wore the same bridesmaid dress that her sister had worn for her wedding!
So there is my story of Old wedding dresses and I have to thank the Duke and Duchess of York for getting engaged and married that same year and gave me a rare opportunity to be on local radio, one of my claims to fame, along with being in the audience of one of Terry Wogan’s show where we were televised and knowing Keith Baron’s sister……………I know I hear you all saying ‘Who is Keith Baron!?” Well here he is…………