Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Wedding Dresses and the Liberty Connection

Reading Lucille's post about the recent Liberty in Fashion Exhibition in London set me thinking about weddings and wedding dresses. Although I never wanted a big white wedding, the dress was important to me and I had firm ideas about what I was looking for.

I still have the dress I bought for my first wedding, a small, intimate ceremony at a London Registry Office nearly 35 years ago, and which I found in Stitches & Daughters in Blackheath Village where I was living at the time.  

It was around the time of Prince Charles' wedding to Diana Spencer, and Stitches & Daughters had commissioned a one-off commemorative wedding dress made from Liberty silk which caught my eye.  I can vividly remember seeing it displayed in their shop window and falling in love with it. Beautifully made and designed by an architect, it fitted perfectly and I bought it on the spot!  I loved wearing it on this special day.  

We held the reception in the garden of the Victorian coach house we were renovating at the time and most of the photos were taken in the dappled shade of the old Mulberry tree, heavy with its dark, staining fruit, imprinted still on the hem.  Looking at it now, I am instantly transported back to that day.  It carries the memories in the folds of its fabric. I see a young woman full of hopes and dreams on the cusp of marriage and motherhood, knowing nothing of what would unfold and almost a stranger to me now.  Some of the guests at my first wedding are still in my life in some way, some have vanished into the ether, and my new husband, my children's father and the man I believed would always share the journey, shockingly no longer plays any part in my life.


My second wedding dress was harder to find and took many months of searching in the shops and online for something suitable for a rather more mature woman with three adult sons, but also special enough for the church wedding we planned to have in our Suffolk village.  

I knew exactly what I wanted this time but it remained elusive, a simple ivory shift dress shouldn't be so hard to find!  As soon as I saw it though I knew this was the one and immediately put in my order.  The dress was duly delivered to my local Waitrose store and prosaically I loaded it into my shopping trolley along with my weekly shop, the fruit and vegetables, the milk and bread and washing-up liquid. I rather like that. 

Luckily it was perfect and my new husband and I thoroughly enjoyed our day celebrating with our seven grown-up children, their partners and our little granddaughter.  A very different occasion and much further down the path of our lives, older and hopefully wiser, but still with no idea of what life holds in store for us in the coming years, what joys and sorrows we will experience.  Weddings are about dreams, marriages are about reality.

What sort of wedding dress did you choose, do you still have it and what does it mean to you now? 

28 comments:

  1. Beautiful, just beautiful. The photo of you in your Liberty wedding dress took me back to a time of life - something so vulnerable, hopeful and the-world-is-my-oyster about those photos of us on the cusp. In the second photo, even without your faces showing, joy leaps off the screen.
    Me? I wore my mother's Duchesse satin gown from 1950. It fit. It was free - and I was a poor student!

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    1. We were so untested then, weren't we? I wouldn't go back though. How special to have an heirloom! Even if my mother had kept her dress, I doubt it would have fitted me, even then.

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  2. I loved Stitches and Daughters too! I wonder if it still there. I hardly ever go to Blackheath but once it was my go-to destination for a little bit of prettiness up the hill from rather grim Lewisham High Street. We used to buy the boys' shoes in Pares.You looked lovely in both dresses.

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    1. Blackheath was lovely in the late 70's and 80s and I loved living there. This dress came from the original small shop. Apparently they moved to Greenwich and are now closed. Another era.

      Perhaps we passed each other in the Village with our small children Lucille, just as we may have done on that Sussex beach in December. I shall be back in the Summer. And thank you.

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  3. What a special post. Loved both dresses but the first one was most unusual. I wore a typical wedding dress and was not very picky. I wrapped it in plastic and stored it in our outside shed...not a good idea living in the desert. It totally ruined it but I do still have the ring pillow and the veil and things.

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    1. There is a tendency to keep wedding dresses, but I'm sorry to hear yours did not fare well. Still, a story there!

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  4. I didn't want a big wedding, much to my mother's chagrin and my father's relief...I chose a white dress, but with a hood instead of the long veil and tiara. I absolutely adored that dress, but the marriage didn't last, and I honestly can't remember what happened to it! It was 34 years ago, and the dress is probably in a landfill somewhere. After my mother died a few years ago, I found my wedding album and several other little keepsakes, tucked away. Very odd really, as she disliked my ex and absolutely adored his replacement!

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    1. Oh no, not in landfill - it surely did not deserve that fate. Weddings are always special and so full of optimism, even when the marriages don't survive.

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  7. Sorry, something odd is happening to my blogger account! I tried to add the following:

    I absolutely love your dress, how beautiful!

    (Hope it works now!)

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  8. Sorry, something odd is happening to my blogger account! I tried to add the following:

    I absolutely love your dress, how beautiful!

    (Hope it works now!)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Both your wedding dresses were beautiful your first one was so unusual and unique! I was given our neighbour's daughters wedding dress, it looked more in the style of Princess Ann's dress rather than that of Diana. (We have been married 30 years.) When the children were small is was cut up and used for dressing up! Sarah x

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    1. It was special, although I have been thinking of selling it recently. I'm letting go of lots of stuff now. I certainly knew I didn't want a Diana meringue though. I'm sure yours was much more stylish! I think cutting up and dressing up are good uses, otherwise they just sort of hang around.

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  10. Both dresses are beautiful, and both are also well suited to you and to the occasion in your life at the time. The first reminds me of Laura Ashley prints and patterns that I sewed in the 70s, a similar, if arguably less sophisticated vibe to the Liberty.
    My dress from my wedding in '74 still hangs in my closet, but I'm debating letting it go with The Big Cull of the moment -- a brilliant seamstress, a friend of my mom's, made it for me, although my mom could have done it as well, really. Every bit of it is synthetic, though (budget! hello!) -- Polyester crepe de chine! with lace at the bodice, long and very simple. high-necked, long-sleeved, all white. I was so very young!

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    1. It's both a strength and a weakness of mine, this need to get it right, but I was pleased with the outcome both times. I used to love Laura Ashley too and still have some of my maxi dresses from the 70s. Lovely things.

      I'm sure you looked lovely, and like you I am thinking of culling - so many memories though...

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  11. I wore my sister's wedding dress that she had worn two years before. I paid for the wedding myself and tried to save money where I could. Although it was lovely, it was not my taste and I have always regretted not having a wedding dress that I picked out. I was a very practical person then and still am, but I wish I had skimped on something else so I could have the memory of picking out and wearing my own dress.

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    1. Interesting that, in the end, having a special dress you had chosen yourself was more important to you than you had realised. We were strapped for cash too and paid for our own wedding and actually the Liberty dress cost less than £100 so wasn't expensive at all. I'm so glad I did go for it - not a moment's hesitation there.

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  12. You chose two beautiful dresses that were perfect for the time in your life.
    My dress was a very simple satin floor length shift. Unfortunately the side seam was puckered where it was altered by a local seamstress and it is all I ever notice when I look at the photos!

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    1. Long and floaty was fine in my 20s, but many years later I wanted something more sophisticated and fitted, so it is the right dress for the right time in life.

      Your dress sounds lovely, but what a pity you see the pucker! I'm sure no-one else noticed though.

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  13. You look beautiful in both wedding dresses Marianne. They couldn't be more different, but they do have the same romantic feel to them. I think I married in the same period as you did. I had a long sleek dress with a bare back, a simple ribbon around my waste, but with huge shoulders, which was quite the fashion. When I look at the photo's now I can't help but laugh. So young, so thin......but those shoulders :-) I don't really know why we liked them!

    Have a good weekend ahead.

    Madelief

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    1. Thank you Madelief! A wedding is the one occasion where you have little choice but to be the centre of attention, so feeling happy about what you are wearing is important. Obviously I am a romantic at heart!

      Those huge shoulders were all the rage in the 80s, weren't they, but they have dated - rather like very flared trousers. I'm sure you looked lovely though and happiness always shines. Hope you have a lovely weekend too x

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  14. well, yet another thing we share in common - I lived in Greenwich in the early 1990's and often walked up through the park to Blackheath (Stitches and Daughters was there then)! My wedding dress was an ivory shift-style dress from Monsoon - I didn't leep it, a photograph takes up less room!

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    1. You are sensible Ann - and just as well if your downsize goes through! We left Blackheath in the late '80s but still, another piece of the jigsaw.

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  15. sorry about typo - obviously I meant 'keep it' rather than 'leep it'!

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    1. Oddly enough, that slipped by me!

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  16. I see exactly how young and hopeful we were. My dress had trailing medieval sleeves, was cream and rather lovely but the photos show me as a rabbit in the headlights. The second time I married in a teal coloured suit which sounds rather dreadful but was actually quite stunning. I have neither now. But I do have my second marriage, twenty years on now, still special, still the place I want to be.

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    1. Weren't we! Your dresses sound absolutely lovely, but, as you say, a marriage that survives and still gives us what we need, is far more important.

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