This past weekend was busy with a magnificent wedding, and to top the weekend off, a friend stopped by to show me her great-grandmother’s hand embroidered wedding dress. I thought I’d share some photos of it with you – it’s a magnificent dress from a by-gone era!
Made from a gorgeous silk Crepe de Chine, the dress and “court train” are completely hand embroidered in silk perle with a pattern of chrysanthemums, ribbons, and shamrocks. The shoulders and sleeves of the dress are made of embroidered tulle, and the waste is accented with a rhinestone and bead bow.
The dress, unfortunately, was not carefully packaged or preserved over the last century, so it shows some serious marks of deterioration. The tulle on the shoulders and sleeves has turned a dark brown, and although feeling somewhat brittle in some places, it can still be gently handled. The lining of the dress is decaying in shreds, but the silk crepe of the dress itself is still in lovely shape (despite discoloration and some spotting that looks like rust). The embroidery is immaculate, with the exception of an occasionally broken thread here and there.
The bodice of the dress is covered with an abundance of embroidered chrysanthemums and shamrocks. The lustre of the silk threads is amazing – only silk thread could withstand the test and ravages of time and still look practically brand new!
Here, you can see the waste sash and the edge of the train running down the length of the skirt. The train, which is relatively small by today’s standards of fancy trains, is made from the same fabric as the dress. It is relatively narrow and falls not too much longer than the length of the gown. The sides of the train wrap just barely to the front of the dress, so that the beautiful embroidery that adorns the edges of the train can be seen from the front and then down across the lower edge where it trails on the ground.
The large chrysanthemums are made of sweeping petals, embroidered in satin stitch, and their centers are embroidered with French knots.
In the close-up above, you can see that the clusters of French knots and the satin stitching are still in perfect shape – absolutely lovely!
The tulle that forms the caps of the sleeves is browned with age, but the embroidery on the tulle is still in excellent shape, and though the tulle seems somewhat brittle, it is actually quite soft. I love the leaf designs on the edge of this sleeve cap.
This particular tulle forms a kind of cap at the top of the sleeves – it is a larger-holed tulle in the typical hexagon shape. The sleeve itself is made from a very fine tulle which is slightly more brittle and had tiny holes, making it a bit more opaque. At the edge of the long tulle sleeves is a ruffle made of a diamond-shape netting, delicately embroidered:
I am not certain if this particular lace that forms the ruffle at the edge of the sleeves is hand embroidered or not. The little flower designs are made of what looks like bullion knots, but they may actually be satin stitch (or overcast stitching). The very edge is lined with scallops topped with a little picot.
This is a closer shot of one of the smaller embroidered chrysanthemums, ribbons, and shamrock. It’s beautiful from the front, but what’s amazing is that it is equally beautiful from the back:
Do you see the row of “dots” at the top of the embroidery? That is a strip of tiny weights sewn to the edge of the train.
The dress is stunning – and so light and airy, despite what looks like a heavy embroidery design. The whole dress is petit in size – I would say it’s equivalent to about a size 4 – and holding it up to me, height-wise, the length would fall about to my mid-calf – and I’m only 5′ 3″. The bride was certainly a petit little thing. The article accompanying the dress indicated that her veil was adorned with an orange-blossom crown and she carried a bouquet of roses.