Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

What We Wore: Wedding Dresses

May 23, 2019

8U4A6773-1

As we were excited to announce last December, What We Wore offers us the opportunity to continually display objects from The Henry Ford’s rich collection of clothing and accessories. What’s on exhibit currently in Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation? Wedding dresses, highlighting the fact that the “traditional” white wedding dress wasn’t always traditional...

8U4A6776-1

For much of American history, brides simply wore the best dress they had. Most wedding celebrations were at-home, informal events. The formal white wedding dress—and the more elaborate celebration to go along with it—is a relatively new concept.

Queen Victoria’s choice of a white dress for her 1840 wedding to Prince Albert inspired the fashion. Over the next century, the custom would gradually spread from the very wealthy to those of more modest means. By the 1950s, the formal white wedding with all the trimmings had become a widespread tradition.

Whether simple or elaborate, classic or trendy—for most brides, the white wedding gown has staying power. Some brides prefer a practical choice for their bridal attire—others search for the perfect, “fairy princess” dress.

8U4A6781-1

Whatever the choice of wedding apparel, it reflects the bride’s values and taste.

what we wore1
Mollie Herrington – Married July 1, 1886

Mollie Herrington wed Reverend William Canfield on a summer evening in the mid-1880s. Like most brides, this 26-year-old schoolteacher was married at her family’s home in a dress that was not white. Brides wore their best dress—whether newly made or already owned—and continued to wear it after the wedding. Few could afford to invest in a white dress meant to be worn only once. Mollie’s stylish dress was probably made for her wedding by a local dressmaker.

60844260_10114653912788124_5431236843033067520_o

Gift of American Textile History Museum, donated to ATHM by Shirley Parish.

Shirley Powell – Married Oct. 18, 1969

Shirley Powell was married in her great-aunt Mollie’s wedding dress—a choice both practical and sentimental. This 23-year-old bride loved the cherished family heirloom—and didn’t think she would find anything more finely made or beautiful at a price she was willing to pay. Having a traditional wedding wasn’t all that important to Shirley and David, but they realized the celebration would be as much about family bonds as about them.

what we wore2
Wedding Party at the Marriage of Cecelia Wall and Anthony Denisevich, 1935. THF274683

Cecilia Wall – Married Oct. 26, 1935

For her morning wedding, 22-year-old Cecelia Wall walked down the aisle in an ivory silk velvet dress. Afterwards, the bridal party and immediate family enjoyed a wedding breakfast at her parents’ home and, in the evening, a reception at the home of the groom’s parents. The Great Depression required some brides to plan simpler weddings than they might have wished. Cecelia was among the fortunate brides who could afford a formal wedding gown.

whatwewore3
Rose Pecchia at Her Wedding in 1968. THF274680

Rose Pecchia – Married March 29, 1968

Rose Pecchia was a practical woman who wanted a simple wedding. She and her husband-to-be chose a wedding date—just two weeks away. A secretary at a downtown Detroit television station, 28-year-old Rose ran out on her lunch hour to nearby Hudson’s department store. She then headed for the racks of cocktail dresses. Rose knew it as soon as she saw it—the perfect dress! It was minimal and stylish—in the 1960s, shorter skirts were “in.” A friend’s mother made the simple headpiece.

Recently, Rose had the chance to see her wedding dress on exhibit. Take a look at her reaction below.


whatwewore5
Diane Osgood at Her Wedding, Tempe, Arizona, June 2, 1990.

Diane Osgood – Married June 2, 1990

Diane Osgood’s choice was traditional. She got married in white—though the 22-year-old bride had at first preferred a blush pink gown, a trendy choice at the time. Diane bypassed white flowers, though, opting for a colorful bridal bouquet instead. The bride and groom didn’t want to miss any of the reception—so they posed for wedding photographs before the ceremony on that 101-degree Arizona June day.

Facebook Comments