After accepting a proposal, one of the most exciting next steps for a girl is saying yes to the dress! For most women today other than finding a venue, creating a guest list, and ordering a cake, dress shopping would be at the top of their priority list. Finding the perfect dress may take no time at all, but can become complicated with all of the dress styles available today. So who do we have to thank for all of the different dress styles out there? Our fellow ladies of the 20th century certainly contributed to the vast assortment of wedding gowns we now have to choose from.
Today we may load up a car with our mother, grandmother and closest friends to hit all of the local wedding boutiques, but ladies from Kings County’s past like Ethel McLeod Good, Grace Winnifred McKay and Annie Frost Wetmore did not travel far for their gowns. Ladies of the early 1900s actually had their wedding dresses handmade. Their dresses could have been creations of their mothers or even of their own. In the early 1900s although the style of a dress would vary slightly from individual to individual there were some similar characteristics to be found in most of the dresses. Gowns with high dog collar necklines, high waists and long trains were very popular, while some ladies wore dresses with gigot sleeves – gigot sleeves started wide and puffy at the shoulder and tapered down to a narrow forearm. Another popular dress characteristic, which I’m sure we’ve all heard about before and wondered in amazement how these women dressed in such a way, is the corset. The corsets of this time were of an S-bend style and very tight. They were made to draw the stomach in and push the bosom out!
We have quite a few wedding dresses in our collection, but the three of the above mentioned ladies were all made and worn in the early 1900s. In June of 1908 Miss Ethel McLeod Good was married to Oscar Frederick Dearkin at her parents’ home in Fillmore, Saskatchewan. On the 4th day of June, Ethel would have been seen wearing a wedding gown she had made earlier in the year for her special day. Her dress was cream in color and made of linen. The panels of the skirt were attached using lace, and lace trimmed the sleeve cuffs as well as the capped shoulders. Because the design and manufacturing of your dress was left in your own hands, depending on your level of talent, you could have quite a tasteful gown!
The following year Grace Winnifred McKay was married a little closer to home. On October 27th, 1909 Grace was married to Harry Brown Clarke in the Chalmer’s Presbyterian Church in Sussex. She wore a dress made of ivory Duchess satin that had an insert of Battenburg lace in the bodice and mother of pearl and crystal beads. In 1938 Grace’s granddaughter Marianna Lynn Clarke wore the dress at her wedding in Aylmer, Ontario.
Annie Frost Wetmore was born in 1880 to Howard Douglas Wetmore and Clara Ada Frost. She was married on September 14th, 1913 to William Sterling Parlee. The last lady to be married of the trio, Annie wore a dress that in some ways appears to be a combination of Ethel and Grace’s gowns. Annie’s wedding dress is made of a cream color silk and, like Grace’s, has pearl and bead trimming along the edge of the “V” lace insert in the front and back. Her dress also had six satin roses – three on the skirt, one on each sleeve and another on the satin belt. For being a dress of over a hundred years old it has aged remarkably well.
Although the chances of a bride being seen in a wedding dress resembling one of these three is highly unlikely today, each one of these gowns is very unique and beautiful. Maybe we should bring back the making of our own wedding gowns – say yes to making the dress!
Special thanks to summer student Jamie Pearson for writing this article for our blog!