Unveiled: Wedding Dress of the Week

A Christmas Wedding

This silk chiffon and satin dress was worn by Lucy Eleanor (Lulu) Cracroft of Hataitai when she wed James Meade Ferguson at St Mark’s Church in Wellington just after Christmas on 29 December, 1914.

Wedding gown, 1914. Maker unknown. Collection of Te Papa. Gift of Mr I C Ferguson, 1982

Wedding gown, 1914. Maker unknown. Collection of Te Papa. Gift of Mr I C Ferguson, 1982

Lucy’s dress features a fashionably relaxed silhouette and a ‘V-neckline’. The latter had come into play in 1913, causing both excitement and outrage. As fashion historian James Laver writes, the new neckline was ‘denounced from the pulpit as something very like indecent exposure and by doctors as a danger to health’. Indeed, it was nicknamed the ‘pneumonia blouse’. By the year of Lucy’s marriage, however, the style had become socially acceptable, and her modest V – trimmed with faux pearls, embroidered net, French knots and a pleated ruffle – was certainly suitable for a church wedding.

While the dress is machine sewn, it features a significant amount of hand detailing and finishing, including a ‘true lovers’ knot’ or bow embroidered in faux pearls on the train.

Detail of the train

Detail of the train

The train itself is padded and has small weights sewn into the hem to ensure a smooth journey down the aisle (and no doubt strong enough to defeat Wellington’s unpredictable winds). She completed her outfit with ‘something old, something borrowed’ – her grandmother’s Limerick lace veil.

An account of the Cracroft/Ferguson wedding appeared in the The Evening Post. The reporter noted that the bride was given away by her mother – her father Captain Henry Cracroft had passed away in 1909 – and avidly describes the ladies’ attire. Rather than carrying a dainty posy, Lucy carried a large spray of trumpet lilies and maiden-hair fern, the splendour of which is captured in this wedding portrait by Hardie Shaw Studios, which is also in Te Papa’s collection (below).

Lucy Ferguson nee Cracroft on her wedding day, 29 December 1914. Photograh by Hardie Shaw Studios. Collection of Te Papa

Lucy Ferguson nee Cracroft on her wedding day, 29 December 1914. photograph by Hardie Shaw Studios. Collection of Te Papa. Gift of Mr I C Ferguson, 1982

The bride’s mother wore ‘mole crepe de chine, with cerise trimming’ and carried pink sweet peas, while her sister Kathleen wore ‘embroidered voile’ and carried a bouquet of blue hydrangeas and maiden-hair fern. In stark comparison to the summery nature of Cracroft party, the mother of the groom wore black crepe de chine and carried heliotrope blossoms. Typically, the male attire was overlooked.

Unveiled: 200 Years of Wedding Dress from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London also features a dress from 1914. While there are some similarities between the two dresses, they are also world’s apart. The V&A’s dress is by Aida Woolf, an exclusive London couturier. Embellished with sparkling glass beads, the gown reflects the growing influence of evening wear on bridal clothes. While both gowns feature a fashionable V neckline and lover’s knot on the train, Woolf’s layered construction and ankle revealing scalloped hemline, show her to be at the forefront of pre-war fashion.

Beaded lace wedding dress and train designed by Aida Woolf,  London, 1914.  Worn by Phyllis Blaiberg for her marriage to Bertie Mayer Stone at the Bayswater Synagogue, London on 9 September 1914. Gift of Mrs B. Rackow

Beaded lace wedding dress and train designed by Aida Woolf, London, 1914. Worn by Phyllis Blaiberg for her marriage to Bertie Mayer Stone at the Bayswater Synagogue, London on 9 September 1914. Gift of Mrs B. Rackow

The scalloped hem enabled the bride, one Phyllis Blaiberg, to show off not only her ankles but her Peter Robinson designed shoes (below), two of the most covetable items in the exhibition.
Silk brocade shoes purchased from Peter Robinson, London, 1914. Worn by Phyllis Blaiberg for her marriage to Bertie Mayer Stone at the Bayswater Synagogue, London on 9 September 1914. Given by Mrs B. Rackow
Silk brocade shoes purchased from Peter Robinson, London, 1914. Worn by Phyllis Blaiberg for her marriage to Bertie Mayer Stone at the Bayswater Synagogue, London on 9 September 1914. Given by Mrs B. Rackow

WEDDING DRESS OF THE WEEK IS POSTED IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE EXHIBITION UNVEILED: 200 YEARS OF WEDDING DRESS FROM THE VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM, LONDON. POSTS FEATURES GARMENTS FROM THE EXHIBITION, TE PAPA’S COLLECTION AND TE PAPA’S WEDDING PHOTO GALLERY.

3 Responses

  1. doug786

    Thanks for sharing such a nice article .Looking forward for your next article :)

    Reply
  2. Jenny Benton

    I am enjoying the weekly “Wedding Dress” posts, thanks so much Claire. Looking forward to a trip in to Te Papa to see the exhibition very shortly, next week perhaps.

    Reply
  3. Susan Waugh

    Nicely written and entertaining, thanks for the excellent insights. Covettable the shoes might be, but how far could one walk in them? Hopefully the aisle of the church was not as long as Westminster Abbey’s.

    Reply

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