“Ordinary” Wedding Dresses

Christina here. Some of the other Wenches have talked about wedding dresses in previous posts – see for example Anne’s visit to a wedding dress exhibition in 2014 with some magnificent gowns! (Link here). Recently I was asked to lend my own wedding dress to a small local exhibition and I thought it could be fun to take a look at some more “ordinary” wedding dresses from the last century. The exhibition in my local village consisted only of outfits worn by people living around here, so no couture gowns or specially designed specimens. They show the eclectic tastes of brides and many of them were of their decade – mine included.

The majority were white or cream, as is the custom these days, but there were a few examples in other colours, notably red. I’ve always felt that red wedding dresses are utterly suitable for winter weddings, and it’s such a cheerful colour too. If I’d been married in winter, I would definitely have considered that. As it happened, I was married in August 1985, and my dress was typical of that decade – the Laura Ashley-inspired leg-of-mutton sleeves and big bustle at the back exactly what I wanted. To tell the truth, I would have chosen this design if I was to get married now as well simply because it’s my favourite type, but it was definitely fashionable back then. I dug it out of a cupboard where it had languished for nearly 40 years in its original box and was pleased and surprised to see that it was still intact. I lent it to the exhibition, together with the accessories – a long veil, white fingerless lace gloves and a little reticule. The shoes I wore are sadly long gone.

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A History of Stripes

Whitchurch silk millNicola here. A couple of weeks ago I visited the Whitchurch Silk Mill. Built in 1813, on land owned by Winchester Cathedral, it was built by the Hayter family and then developed by William Maddick. Through the 19th and early 20th century it produced silk, providing work for the local populace and going through some hard times and some good like many small businesses. From 1911 the mill wove silk for Burberry, producing 22 different colours of silk lining for their famous raincoats. In the 1980s after falling into disrepair it was restored as a working museum using traditional machinery and methods.

Visiting the museum was completely fascinating. Weaving silk is a very complicated business but it was so much easier to understand when you could follow IMG_1082 (002) the different steps in the process and even have a go on the silk looms yourself. It was also a real insight to see what working conditions were like in the Victorian age – some of the child workers started at nine years old!

The Whitchurch mill has always specialised in stripes and there was a very interesting exhibition on show about striped designs and their history. Stripes in
nature have long been an inspiration for designers. Stripes can be used as both camouflage and as warning. Both prey – zebras, for example – and predators such as tigers, have stripes that allow them to blend in. Snakes, various insects and even badgers have them to scare the predators away.

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