154 years old & still immaculate Bridal Gown & Hair Net
On the 29th November, 1864, Miss Caroline Dominy walked down the aisle in this dress, and thus became Mrs Caroline Shere. She wore her hair in a fashionable chignon, held in place with the finest silk [or real hair], beaded hair net, also an essential accessory of the decade.
If Caroline could see her wedding gown and net today, 154 years on, she could re-create her steps just as if time stood still. They are immaculate!
Sadly, I have let her down a little, because not one of my mannequins is the correct size for her tiny form. So I hope you can imagine how she would look when properly fastened up.
I was amazed to find the hair net, almost invisible, the beads attached to the criss cross fine netting in a multitude of colours. It was something I knew nothing of, and had certainly never seen before, but if you have 'English Women's Clothing in the Nineteenth Century' by C. Willett Cunnington, you can read all about the styles of the hair through the 1860's, including false hair attachments, and the 'hair nets, some of bright colours' on pages 244 & 245. [See The Study for full reference]
The dress is an absolute classic of 1864. It is all hand made in the finest of stitches [I rarely say that about the 19th Century!] With shapely bishop sleeves, piped at the tops, and a huge skirt with trained back, the moire silk has great body and stature to show off the highlights in the 'watered' silk. It gleams!
The very fitted bodice is so demure, fastening up to the neck with irridescent buttons and pulling the waistband tightly in with a double set of hooks and eyes, all quite perfect, except that I cannot fasten them on this mannequin!
Extra decoration is modest, quite right for a bride, with a little trim of silk netting around the neck and to the ends of the sleeves. The sleeve cuffs then are overlaid with double box pleated silk trim in a lovely cream a shade richer than the ivory moire silk of the gown.
I think the most amazing part of the gown is the pleating of the vast skirt at the waist. Triple box pleats all around provide exactly the solution to the 1864 requirement described by Cunnington to make the lady appear very slim indeed below the waist, whilst hiding vast amounts of fabric for the huge, billowing skirt draped below.
Inside, we see a tiny hidden coin pocket at the waist below the hooks, and a lovely large, glazed cotton pocket to one side of the skirt.
Whilst the skirt is unlined, the bodice is fully lined and perfect, with pairs of bones inside the double bodice pleats, one at each side seam, and just one more to support the buttons at the opening. All classic, just as they should be.
The size is as follows:
Chest 28", Waist 22", Centre back bodice length 15" [to top of waist band], Underarm sleeve length 13.5", Front skirt length below waistband 40", Back skirt length to edge of train 50".
An exceptional Victorian wedding gown & rare hair accessory.
It is worth noting that, when one finds a dress like this, which is a classic for the period, Cunnington's book mentioned above is extremely useful. He document's fashions and accessories year by year, including day wear and evening wear, indoor & outdoor wear. An invaluable reference book if you really want to accessorise a dress appropriately.
*** Please note, as I always tell you, the maximum insurance for sending items with Royal Mail tracked & signed for outside the UK is £250.00. I am unable to pay the difference in the event of a rare loss. Please contact me for a price of full insurance if you prefer to be fully covered. It will be more expensive than the price quoted at the checkout.
Condition is a joy to talk of!
As far as I can tell with such a delicate piece, the hair net is in perfect condition.
The silk netting at neck and sleeve edges is just slightly melted but this is all I can find wrong!
The dress exterior & interior are as clean and fresh as can be. I found one tiny spot at the back of the skirt. Very minor indeed.
No staining, no damage apart from mentioned above.
Caroline's family have done her proud.