If you look closely at this beautiful wedding dress, you will see that it is covered with daffodils.
This is one of the favourite dresses in the costume collection. It is so elegant, and you could easily wear it today. Julia Armstrong was the lucky bride to wear it when she married Kenneth Martin at St James’ Church, Carlisle, on 28 July 1948. Although they got married three years after the Second World War ended clothes rationing was still in force. So, Julia had to save her clothing coupons to buy the fabric for her wedding dress.
Luckily for Julia she was able to buy her dress fabric from Fergusons, a major textile producer in the city. They excelled in making silky soft fabrics like this. It might look like expensive bridal satin, but it is in fact made from a much cheaper natural product called rayon.
Julia took the fabric to a local dressmaker who made the dress for her. Rationing limited the amount of fabric you could use so dress styles had to be more economical. This is why the skirt uses less fabric than you might expect for a wedding dress. This all changed in the 1950s when rationing finally ended. Large bouffant skirts inspired by Christian Dior’s ‘New Look’ style became all the rage.
This thrifty approach to fashion is valuable to us today as we all consider our fashion choices and how we can limit our environmental impact on the planet. None more so than the white wedding dress, a dress we choose to wear for just one day. But this has not always been the case. Queen Victoria made white a popular choice for brides when she married in 1840. But the less wealthy, older women or widows often chose a coloured dress they could wear again for Sunday best.
This is one of several outfits you will be able to see in the new Costume Gallery when it opens this year.