Unveiled: Wedding Dress of the Week

Unveiled: Wedding Dress of the Week

With the mornings crispy and the evenings increasingly darker, winter is distinctly on it way. This week’s wedding gown from Te Papa’s collection is perfect for the winter bride.

Wedding gown by Carosa, c. 1950. Collection of Te Papa. Gifted by Mary-Annette Hay, 2007.

This stunning medieval-style gown was designed by Italian high fashion house Carosa, and was worn by New Zealand’s ‘Queen of Wool’, Mary-Annette Burgess, for her marriage to Donald Hay in 1953.

At the time Mary-Annette was working for the New Zealand Wool Board as Promotions Officer, a position she held from 1948 to 1956. Her mission was to ‘take the wonder of wool to the nation’. She did this through a series of spectacular productions for which she scripted a series of dramatised stories starring the Wool Board’s enviable collection of post-war designer wool garments. Mary-Annette Hay lived what she preached. She wore designer wool garments at every opportunity, including on her wedding day. As she once said ‘I saw wool, I wore wool, I thought wool and only wool’.

Promotional poster from the 2007 Te Papa exhibition ‘Queen of Wool’. In the photograph Mary-Annette Hay wears a gown by Balmain.

After Mary-Annette and Donald announced their engagement, the media began to speculate about the nature of her wedding dress. The Wool Board allowed her to wear the only wedding dress in the collection – the Carosa gown. For her ‘going away’, she wore a suit by British designer Hardy Amies.

The house of Carosa was established in 1947 by Princess Giovanna Caracciolo Ginetti, who attracted some of Italy’s most talented designers, including Patrick de Barantzen, Pino Lancetti, and Angelo Tarlazzi. In the 1950s, when the country’s fashion industry was emerging on the international stage, Carosa became a major influence on Italian fashion. Highly decorated Italian gowns became particularly popular with American film stars and, as a result, had a major influence on American designers for Hollywood.

The luxurious woollen fabric and the gown’s exquisite cord-work embroidery were trademarks of Italian-designed garments after World War II.  Embroidery, in particular, had long been an Italian craft, and was practised with great skill at this time.

Back view of Mary-Annette Hay’s wedding dress by Carosa.

In 2007 Mary-Annette Hay gifted her collection of designer woollen garments to Te Papa, along with archival material relating to her career in wool. To find out more about Mary-Annette Hay and her collection of designer woollen garments click here to watch an episode from Tales from Te Papa.

Mary-Annette Hay is still involved with the promotion of wool as an Honorary Ambassador for the Campaign for Wool. You can hear a 2011 radio interview with Mary-Annette Hay and Kim Hill from Radio NZ National here.

Wedding Dress of the Week is posted in association with Unveiled: 200 Years of Wedding Fashion from the Victoria and Albert, London, which is on display at Te Papa until 22 April 2012.


  1. Weeding dress is a must for wedding ceremony. A bride is incomplete without a proper wedding dress….. actually a wedding dress is the identity of the bride….in that case i must say that the This stunning medieval-style gown displayed in the picture above is so Gorgeous.. ….. the design of the dress bears the sign of creativity…. and royalty…. great design by Italian high fashion house Carosa……. great work…

    Wedding DJs

  2. Nice, but yeah – I’d probably go for something more revealing and have a summer wedding!

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