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1900s Wedding Dress

As is still the case to this day, the position of a bride in the Edwardian times was one of much importance. Being a bride signified a transition into a new phase of life and a new place in the social hierarchy, and with this came a certain amount of scrutiny and expectation surrounding how the bride should act and especially dress. By this time the most significant expectation when it came to dressing for marriage was that the wedding dress be white, a tradition which had been popularized by Queen Victoria in 1840, and which had come to symbolize the purity of the bride. Although brides had many options in terms of materials and obtaining a dress, it remained very important throughout almost all economic classes that the dress be white. 

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October 1910 Ladies Home Journal

The rise in the distribution of catalogs and materials for dressmaking meant that there were several means, which varied in price and ease, through which a bride could get her dress. The expensive option was to have a dressmaker create a dress for the bride which was tailored specifically for her needs. However, there were also quite a few choices for brides with a lower budget. One was to buy a ready-made dress in a department store or order one from a catalog, such as Sears and Roebuck. The styles of the early 1900s were also less complicated than those of previous decades, making it more possible for home sewers to make their own dresses, and there were many patterns available for that use. Magazines such as The Ladies Home Journal were a good resource for getting patterns, and they also provided lots of advice on the latest fashions and many other topics, as well as advertisements for a wide variety of goods. 

Detail View of Wedding Dress of Ellen Suydam Lott Rapelje

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This wedding dress exemplifies the style of its time. The high neckline and collar were very popular in this period, as were the full front of the bodice and the "S-bend" curve, a silhouette which was achieved by wearing a style of corset which had originally been designed to be more beneficial to one's health than corsets of past decades. Another common style, shown below in the picture of the bride, was to wear long gloves reaching up to the bottom of the short sleeves, which left no skin exposed. The Complete Dressmaker, published in 1907, gave brides advice on how to wear their gloves: “One of the seams of the ring finger should be ripped; it may be slipped back from the finger during the ceremony, in this way avoiding much confusion.” This dress originally had a section of lace attached to the front of the bodice, shown in the picture of Ellen Suydam Lott Rapelje in her wedding ensemble.

- Nyoman Shanti Fowler-Puja, '22