Wedding fashions at the County Show
11 May 2018
As the royal wedding approaches, Shelley Tobin, RAMM’s Curator of Costume, has been looking into the customs and dress of brides over the last two centuries and preparing a selection of items from the reserve collections to go the Devon County Show 2018.
Not everyone could aspire to a white bridal gown with expensive accessories. White satin only began to catch on from the 1880s, and even then was not within the reach of every bride-to-be. While the royal family set the tone, and trends to follow, most 19th century women simply married in their best. RAMM has many lovely examples of gowns worn for the ceremony, worn by local women from all walks of life, from the Broadclyst farm labourer’s daughter who married in mourning for her father in 1871, to the grandest of weddings in Exeter Cathedral, they all have a story to tell.
The groom’s wedding suits and coats are also preserved at RAMM, including a coat worn by an unfortunate young Devon man who died young shortly after his wedding in 1817. His coat, in dark blue cloth with shiny metals buttons, survives in the collections.
Lace is another important element of wedding dress. Whether worn as a dress trimming or veil, East Devon lace has a long history of association with British royal weddings, inspiring many to choose Devon made lace for their own bridal outfits.
So much for the big important wedding clothes, but what about the accessories?
An important part of any wedding ensemble are the bridal shoes. Delicate and dainty or elegant and high-heeled, they’re generally made in cream or white satin.
There was also a custom of throwing old shoes after the bridal carriage for good luck!
Wedding shoes and Honiton lace at the County Show
Visitors to the Devon County Show, Thursday 17 to Saturday 19 May, will be able to see some beautiful examples of shoes made for Victorian and Edwardian brides. They will be on display at the RAMM stall in the BBC Radio Devon tent. Crafted from fine leather and silk satin, the shoes are embellished with beads, ribbons, buckles and rosettes, depending on the fashion of the time.
Visitors to RAMM’s stall will also be able to see some examples of East Devon lace, and have a go at dating photographs of fashionable weddings of the last 150 years.
Come and find out more about these objects and the stories they reveal.
Vicky will be at the County Show from 9am to 5pm on Friday and Camilla will be there from 10am to 5pm on Thursday. We will be running a wedding themed costume activity where visitors have to identify the dates of royal and ordinary wedding photos and talking to visitors about the collections we have on the stall in the BBC tent.
Choice objects at the Devon County Show
Shelley Tobin, RAMM’s Curator of Costume, will be at the RAMM stall in the BBC Radio Devon tent on Thursday and Friday. She will be supported by volunteers Camilla and Vicky.
“My favourite object is a photograph of Frederick Richard Rowley and his wife on their wedding day in 1909. The photo has strong ties to the history of RAMM as Rowley was the curator for over 32 years. The couple’s clothing is particularly emblematic of the period with Mrs Rowley’s high necked dress decorated in true lover’s knots, with chiffon sleeves.” Camilla will be at the RAMM stall in the BBC Radio Devon tent on Thursday.
“My favourite object that will be on display at the County Show, is a pair of cream satin pumps dating from about 1839. They are extremely narrow shoes decorated with a pom-pom and were made by Naish, 33 High Street, Bristol. These shoes are particularly interesting as Naish were shoe makers to Queen Victoria.” Vicky will be at the RAMM stall in the BBC Radio Devon tent on Friday.