Artifact Corner: Episode 27 – Romantic Era Wedding Dress


Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. As we are approaching Valentine’s Day, we thought it would be fun to look at a very romantic day in our home’s history, a wedding. In 1832 the family prepared for the marriage of the Delord’s only daughter, Frances. At just 18 years old, Frances was marrying a merchant named Henry Livingston Webb. They were married in the Gold Parlor room of our home, and by all accounts it was a very happy day. Let’s take a look at weddings in the 1830’s, and how they changed during the Victorian Era.

In the 1830’s weddings were still a very intimate affair. Most weddings took place in the home, and the number of attendees was limited to the size of the space. This was ubiquitous amongst the classes, from the well to do to the poor, weddings most often occurred in the family home. Church weddings started to gain popularity by the 18-teens to the 1820’s, but being married in your parents home remained popular throughout the entire 19th Century. Most weddings were held mid week, with Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday being the easiest days to schedule. Frances and Henry were married on a Wednesday. This was born of necessity, since most ministers and pastors were quite busy with church services on the weekends.

So, what did the bride wear for her special day? It was common for women in the early 19th Century to simply wear their best gown as their wedding dress. If their best dress was a bit too plain, women would add extra lace and trim to spruce up the gown. The color of the gown was not important. Any color was acceptable for a wedding dress. In 1840 Queen Victoria married Prince Albert, and wore a stunning white wedding gown. Illustrations from her wedding traversed the globe, and influenced fashion in a major way. Thanks to her white dress, now brides wanted to wear white on their wedding day, shunning colorful gowns. Queen Victoria’s wedding dress still influences bridal fashion to this day more than 150 years later.

Our Frances Henrietta was a bride ahead of her time. In 1832, Frances wore a white wedding dress with a blue sash around her waist. Betsey Delord (Frances’ Mother) hired a Mantua maker, or dress maker, for her daughter’s wedding attire. The wedding dress, silk flower bouquet, and leather shoes that Francis wore cost $47.19, which is the equivalent of $2,731.24 in todays money. The silk lace overdress, the satin under dress, and the fabric for the silk flower bouquet were imported from Paris. Frances’ friend Anne Moore was her bridesmaid, and Henry’s brother John Webb was his best man for their special day.

The wedding dress, bouquet, and her leather wedding shoes are very fragile and delicate artifacts in our collections. While we have a number of paintings of Frances, her actual garments can tell us so much more about her. Her dress and her slippers highlight just how slight a person she was. She was petit in every sense of the word, and that’s not something a painting can really show us. That’s what makes textile artifacts, like clothing, so important for understanding the people we study. We have a number of garments in our collections spanning a hundred years of history and fashion. Each artifact is a unique and revealing puzzle piece that tells us so much about the person who wore it. We hope you enjoyed this look back at nuptials in the 1800’s. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot,