At the moment I’m visiting my parents in the UK and we visited Middleton Hall. This hall is an historical landmark and the first mannor house was build around 1285. The building has taken on different styles throughout the ages, but what I enjoyed the most was the cute little village style shopping area called The Courtyard Centre. Within it was a beautiful little antique shop called Meadow View Antiques. If you’re anything like me, this is something to get excited about. As it was a small space but it was full of old treasures. I was rummaging around, looking at old jewellery and sewing tools and then I saw it, this beautiful tiny little ivory silk wedding dress from about the 1850s -1860s.
My first thought was how tiny the waist was, then how small the hight of the dress was. We know that people were not as tall as we are today but this was about 5 foot tall. Which either meant the woman getting married in this, was a very small person, or she was very young. For a Victorian woman, it was important to be married off as young as possible. The ages 18 – 25 were the best ages to get married. Any longer after 30 for a woman, who was unmarried, would most probably remain a spinster for her life time. Women had very little rights in the Victorian era. If they had any property or wages they were handed over to her husband on their wedding day. A wife’s proper role was to love, honour and obey her husband and she became property of their husband, giving the man full control over their bodies, for sex, children and domestic labour. Life was even harder for working class woman as they had no servants to help with the housework and raising the children. Women really didn’t get much choice in the matter.
The white wedding dress was made popular by Queen Victoria, when she married Albert of Saxe Coburg in 1840. As Victoria was an icon in fashion, many women after that opted for a white wedding dress and this tradition still continues to this day. This little wedding dress dates back to about 1850s. The waist of the dress was 22 inches and the under the dress was a crinoline, however that was not original. The dress was buttoned at the front and finished with a little sweet bow tie belt. Underneath she would of worn a tight corset to help her achieve her 22 inch waist.