Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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A Beautiful Embroidered Wedding Dress & Its Story


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I have a Thing for hand embroidered wedding gowns from days of old – like this gorgeous wedding dress from 1914, that I wrote about a few years ago.

The other day, I spent a delightful bit of time reading up on Elizabeth Bull’s wedding dress – a Colonial era hand-embroidered wedding dress held by the Bostonian Society.

Colonial era hand embroidered wedding dress

Two Nerdy History Girls wrote up two excellent articles on the dress.

The first, A Very Special Embroidered Wedding Dress, 1734, exposes the general history of the dress. The second article relates a little more detail about Elizabeth Bull and her dress, and includes some interesting musings by the author.

Colonial era hand embroidered wedding dress

The Bostonian Society website offers an interesting series on the lives of girls & women of 18th century Boston.

The series is called From Baby Caps to Mourning Rings, and Elizabeth Bull’s wedding dress features in it here.

You can click on the thumbnail images of the embroidery on the dress to see the embroidery up close.

There’s a Moral to this Tale

Besides the fact that the dress is almost 300 years old, and besides the fact that it was re-fashioned to be worn from one era to the next by subsequent generations (the most recent wearing being in the early 1900’s for a photograph), I think one of the most interesting aspects of Elizabeth Bull’s wedding dress is this:

She never finished the embroidery!

That’s right. There are still pattern lines on the silk gown for flowers that she never got a chance to embroider, but obviously intended to!

I’m pretty certain there’s a moral here – a moral somehow associated with all those unfinished embroidery projects that are waiting for our attention. There’s something comforting about a 300-year-old “unfinished” embroidery project that can still delight our eyes and spark our imaginations, isn’t there?

Take some time to read the articles and browse the photos up close! You’ll find it well worth your while!

Don’t Forget!

Tomorrow, I’ll announce the winner of this blackwork embroidery class give-away. If you haven’t signed up for the give-away yet, today’s your last chance!

I’ve been battling with a beautiful bout of pertussis this week, so I haven’t been spending a lot of time with needle and thread (or with much of anything or anyone else, come to think of it!). If the cough would kindly subside a bit, I’m hoping to get back to some serious stitching this weekend.

So, for those clamoring for a Secret Garden update, we’ll catch up next week on the hummingbirds and on some Stitch Fun that I’ve started but haven’t finished yet. I’m playing with an under-used, under-appreciated stitch, and I can’t wait to show it to you!

Until tomorrow, then!


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(20) Comments

  1. I love the 2 Nerdy History Girls! Especially their Sunday Breakfast Links. This was such an interesting article. Thanks for sharing this though, I’d completely missed the second article. 🙂

    Hope you feel better soon!

  2. I embroidered a linen tablecloth with shamrocks, daffodils, roses and thistles (UK emblems)while i sat with my Dad as he was dying. I left one wee tiny rose unfinished.

  3. Awww. Please get better soon, Mrs. Corbet. I think it’s a summer cold virus just sweeping everywhere. Thanks for this fascinating tale of unfinished work! Although I find it weird that in all those generations not one person thought to finish it?????????

  4. Hope you feel better soon, Mary! Pertussis is no joke. 🙁
    Wonderful to read about that gorgeous gown. Makes me want to embroider a beautiful piece of clothing that can be handed down, too. 🙂

  5. I hope ” pertussis “is an exaggeration and you are feeling better soon. It amazes me that a garment remodelled so many times has survived so well!
    I enjoy blackwork…it is so portable and takes less concentration than other forms but I would love to learn to shade better.

  6. You mean she wasn’t a bridezilla and still wore it unfinished. Sounds great to me. It certainly is lovely and she was entitled to be proud of it. Hopefully they can get the permanent restoration funds together before it gets any worse.

  7. Hello ma’am,I’m Mary,I live in South India, in Chennai. I have been seeing your videos on you tube , really superb.I’m interested in embroidery and also make some, but I know only about chain stitches,until I visited your site.I didn’t know there are so many types of stitches in embroidery,Thanks to you. I have just subscribed and hope and will look forward to get tips from you. Thank you again, and yes I will also keep you in my prayers.may god give you loads of health.thanks

  8. Dear Mary,
    What a delightful beginning of the day you have given me. I had to go through the entire article twice enlarging each photo each time. I have always been a history buff, and you certainly gave me a lot of food for thought today. Of course my favorites were the baby caps and the wedding dress. I so love it when you share little tid-bits like these. Thank you again and again.

  9. This was a lovely article, thank you for posting it! I intend to hand down all my needlework to my children. It would be lovely to embroider something like a wedding dress or Christening gown for my children to hand down to theirs. Thanks again for all that you do to teach us these lovely techniques!

  10. Thanks for bringing this wonderful gown to our attention. Amazing that the color in the embroidery is still so vibrant.

  11. Thank you so much for linking to my blog post about Elizabeth Bull’s wedding dress. I’m sure you and your readers will understand the needleworking “chills” I got while seeing this beautiful dress. Elizabeth’s skill really was extraordinary, and I felt honored to see it. I saw several other examples of her work as well – including a lovely green silk kerchief exquisitely embroidered in gold and silver thread as well as silk – and I’ll be featuring them on the blog in the coming weeks. I was especially pleased to see that her work must have been prized by her children and other descendants, and treasured by them over the centuries. Very special!

    1. Love the articles, Susan! I’ll be looking forward to your other articles on Elizabeth’s work. Aw, heck – I look forward to pretty much any of your articles! They’re such fun!

  12. So interesting to envision the joy and anticipation she must have felt and she adorned her gown. That is was passed on and cared for is such a wonderful testimony to love and beauty of this work. Thanks for sharing the articles with us.
    Please take care of yourself and get well soon. Enjoy your weekend of stitching.

  13. How wonderful not only that the dress has been valued and preserved (albeit with changes) for these last 3 centuries, but also that the name of the artist who created it has also been valued and preserved. All too often Anonymous is a woman! Please look after your health – you are valued too. Pertussis is no joke, and you will need plenty of rest while you recover.

  14. Unfinished wearables: this reminds me of my osnaberg Taco Skirt which I made for a regional EGA seminar fashion show. The wide attached hem was crazy quilt patchwork in lettuce greens, ground beef browns, shredded cheese yellows, etc and I underestimated how much time I was taking to embroider atop the many seams. On stage I went ahead & wore the skirt where I could lift front semi-circle up like the intended tortilla, but turning around revealed the 180 degrees edge empty of the 6 inch high crazy quilt hem still to be done…leisurely by end of that summer!

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