News from the Tennessee Valley Living Today

This elegant 1957 gown with lace netting and lace appliques over taffeta was influenced by the wedding of actress Grace Kelly. The 'Wedding Memories' exhibit is at Burritt on the Mountain in Huntsville.
Daily photo by Gary Cosby Jr.
This elegant 1957 gown with lace netting and lace appliques over taffeta was influenced by the wedding of actress Grace Kelly. The "Wedding Memories" exhibit is at Burritt on the Mountain in Huntsville.

Vintage dresses on display at Burritt
gowns galore

By Patrice Stewart 340-2446

Where is your wedding gown now?

Some women store them carefully, while others turn them over to consignment or resale stores or run classified ads.

Sue VanLandingham of Decatur kept her 1955 lacey creation and wore it at her 25th, 40th and 50th wedding anniversary celebrations.

Gay Maloney of Decatur recently got her gown out for daughter Phyllis to wear for her June 2 wedding.

Do you remember what the gowns of the 1800s and 1920s looked like? The 1940s and 1950s?

Brides, their mothers and others will enjoy a look at wedding gowns of the past currently on display in the mansion at Burritt on the Mountain in Huntsville.

The "Wedding Memories" exhibit, which runs through June 30, includes a 1905 taupe cotton wedding ensemble donated to the Burritt Museum's collection by Elizabeth Shelton of Huntsville.

A 1907 Edwardian-style ivory silk crepe and lace ensemble worn by Annie Schiffman at her wedding at Huntsville's Temple B'Nai Sholom is on loan from Margaret Ann Goldsmith.

Alice Hamilton loaned a family gown from 1946, while an example of a 1950s bridesmaid's gown in pale green chiffon over taffeta is borrowed from Mary Gray.

About 18 other antique and vintage gowns and accessories on display are from the private collection of Huntsville's Gay Money, who purchased them from estates and gleaned whatever information she could about the bride, her family and the wedding.

WWII & weddings

The carefully documented exhibit gives details such as the fact that in the 1940s, with government rationing during World War II in progress, the American Bridal Association lobbied Congress, arguing that "Weddings and wedding fashions and the materials needed to go into a wedding are just as important as Mom's apple pie."

Some wartime brides opted for simple church-type dresses, however.

The oldest gown in the exhibit is an 1895 design of cream silk chiffon and lace worn by socialite Anita Clay Evans, whose father was mayor of Chattanooga and later served in Congress.

Women looking at the exhibit recently compared the fabrics and styles through the years.

A 1920s "flapper" style featured a loose chemise, while a 1930s gown had the tailored "Great Gatsby" look.

A 1957 design was reminiscent of the scooped-neck gown with lace appliques worn by the late actress Grace Kelly at her wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco.

Chantilly and other laces were popular at different times, as were crinolines and hoop skirts.

The need for a wedding dress to do duty later also was apparent. A 1930 gown of sheer ivory net with ivory underlay could be worn afterward with a pastel-colored slip underneath for a different look.

Veils, mantillas, lace caplets and other headpieces are included in the display, as are long children's gloves and other accessories.

Colors of culture

Along with the gowns, Money collected some wedding trivia. For example, wedding gowns have not always been white or ivory, which are the colors of choice today.

During Colonial times, some brides wore red to symbolize the independence the Colonists wanted.

In the Civil War era, a bride might wear purple to represent honor and courage as a tribute to the dead.

In other cultures, bold colors are chosen for particular reasons: in Morocco, bright yellow will chase away evil and green will bring luck, while in India and Africa, certain colors and patterns signify regions or villages.

You may see lime green embroidered with butterflies and flowers in Korea and red for joy in China. Purple and gold universally mean royalty.

If you go

What: "Wedding Memories" exhibit

Where: In the Burritt Mansion at Burritt on the Mountain, a living museum on Monte Sano in Huntsville

When: Through June 30, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday; call 536-2882

Admission: Exhibit included in Burritt admission of $6 ($5 for seniors 60 up and $4 for students 2-12 and military); you can also see restored 19th-century houses, barnyard and animals

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