Sunday, May 26, 2013

Four Brides and Their Dresses

Student of history and past-WWW President Pamela Tartaglio writes about what wedding dresses of the past reveal about the brides and their lives, as revealed by "I Do, I Do" an exhibit at the Pasadena Museum of History.

In 1890, Bertha Supnick married in a practical bridal gown, a colored dress she could wear after her wedding.  Although she wed in the wealthy winter resort of Pasadena, California, Bertha was a member of the working class and would later be employed at Pasadena Steam Laundry.  Born in Germany, she married a fellow immigrant, Andrew Hansen of Denmark. 
Historians call this a "best dress" wedding gown.
Bertha’s rust-colored bridal gown looks homemade, not polished and complex.  She may have sewn it herself, excited to get married to Andrew, of course, but also to own a dress of rich moiré taffeta with sequined trim and Juliet sleeves.  She would wear it after she became Mrs. Hansen, on special occasions such as parties and Christmas.  

Susie Markham's pleated silk chiffon gown
Susie Markham was the niece of a former California governor. Although she did not move to her home near Pasadena’s Millionaires’ Row until several years after her 1901 wedding, her dress represents those worn by fortunate brides in that town.  Susie’s gown is of pleated silk chiffon, visible near her feet, but mostly covered by net with large linen appliqué.  The net below her neck and above her wrists is dotted with faux pearls.  A detachable belt and cuffs are decorated with faux pearls in a geometric design.  There is a lace panel over the train.
Close-up view of Susie Markham's gown with faux pearls and fancywork
Two of the wedding dresses at the Pasadena Museum of History belong to a mother and daughter in the Giddings family.  Museum visitors are surprised to learn the location of the Giddings farm.  What is now a commercial area was a twenty-acre farm a century ago, the “end of the line” for streetcars, which turned around in front of the Giddings’ family home. 

Joshua and Jennie Giddings on the 50th wedding anniversary
In 1930, Jennie and Joshua Giddings celebrated their 50th anniversary, and Jennie, a mother of six, wore her wedding dress.  Fit as a fiddle. 
Blanche Giddings' graduation portrait
Their daughter bought a white cotton and lace dress to wear to her high school graduation.  White dresses appropriate for formal occasions were available ready-made in the early 1900s.  She autographed this graduation portrait, “Lovingly Yours, Blanche Giddings, June 1908.”

Blanche's graduation and wedding dress
Blanche was a practical young lady who wore this graduation dress when she married a year later.  She had her wedding reception at a shady spot on the family farm, where they set the tables, brought out the tiered wedding cake, and took a photograph.  Also pictured are Blanche and her groom George Brown with their wedding guests.
Blanche Gidding's wedding reception, outdoors on the family farm
Blanche Giddings' wedding party and guests

I Do, I Do, Pasadena Ties the Knot 1850 – 1950,” at the Pasadena Museum of History, features 42 wedding gowns and closes on July 14. The museum’s 1906 Fenyes Mansion is open to the public.

View more bridal gowns from the Gilded Age on Pamela Tartaglio’s blog, Past and Present with Pamela.  Upcoming posts will feature more wedding dresses from the exhibit, from beaded flapper dresses of the Roaring Twenties to streamlined silk dresses of the 1930s.  Pamela is a volunteer at the Pasadena Museum of History as well as 2013 Past President of Women Writing the West and Chair of its WILLA Literary Awards.  


Anne Schroeder Author said...

I loved this. And the timing is great--I've seen several photos on this Memorial Day of women Vets who wed in their military uniforms. What would you say about them?

Heidiwriter said...

Beautiful gowns! And such interesting stories to go with them. I actually love that rust-colored dress--such a practical-minded young woman!

Anonymous said...

Anne, were those women vets on active duty in WWII when they married?

Servicemen came home on leave with short notice. Many couples decided to marry then so they would have a brief, happy time before he shipped out, maybe to battle. No time for a bridal gown, so the bride wore a suit and the groom his uniform.

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