Form and Fashion

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Wedding dress
About 1878, 19th century
Fibre: silk (taffeta, velvet, chenille, fringe), cotton; Sewn
Gift of Miss A. Grant
M966.35
© McCord Museum
Description
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Description

The line of the dress has now become more vertical. The one-piece princess-line gown in silk taffeta has a fitted bodice and front closure with velvet-covered buttons. There is a standing collar and long sleeves in velvet. The later are trimmed with a cuff of knife-pleating surmounted by a flat pleated band in taffeta. Two appliquéd velvet panels, on either side of the front closure are terminated in chenille and silk fringe. There is a small watch pocket on the left side. A horizontally flat-pleated section below the waist creates an overskirt effect, but does not continue through to the centre back. It is trimmed near its hemline with silk and chenille fringe. Near the hemline of the taffeta underskirt there are box pleats, and short velvet tabs terminating in taffeta knife-pleating. The upper centre back features an appliquéd velvet panel in the shape of a violon body, which continues below the waist. The flat-pleated taffeta section from the front terminates in the back with bows on one side and an appliquéd vertical velvet panel on the other side, creating an asymmetrical effect. On the right side in the back, a deep bag pocket is inserted into the horizontal flat pleating. Lower back fullness is created by a box pleat with an inverted pleat in its centre, this forming a train embellished with a large bow near the hemline. Three sets of tie tapes are inserted into the inner seams of the back of the skirt in order that may be adjusted to fit tightly to the body. The year assigned to the garment is substantiated through donor information regarding the wedding date. In addition, a pocket placed in the back, such as is inserted in this gown, was popular from about 1876 to 1878; this serves to confirm the above information. Attire in the Notman Photographic Archives also reveals the trend towards a new vertical line. During the 1870s and 1880s wedding dresses were frequently not white. At around the time the Brennan wedding dress was ordered, plum colours were the height of fashion. In the January 30, 1877 issue of the Montreal newspaper The Evening Star, J. Carroll and Co. advertised, under the caption "New Dress Goods" ten types of fabric : all were available in "Plum Colors". And in the August 31, 1878 issue of The Montreal Daily Witness, S. Carsley, which was located at 393 and 395 Notre Dame St., advertised a "New lot of all shades Plum, the best value that we have."

Keys to History

Dress lines have become more [object=II-49696.1]vertical[/object]. This princess-line gown in silk taffeta has a fitted bodice, a front closure with velvet-covered buttons, a standing collar and long sleeves of velvet. These are trimmed with a knife-pleated cuff embellished with a flat-pleated band of taffeta. Two appliquéd velvet panels, on either side of the front closure, are finished in chenille and silk fringe. There is a small watch pocket on the left side. Below the waist, a section of horizontal flat pleats creates an overskirt effect, but does not continue through to the centre back. The upper centre back features an appliquéd velvet panel in the shape of a violin body, which continues below the waist. The flat-pleated taffeta section of the front terminates in the back with bows on one side and an appliquéd vertical velvet panel on the other, creating an asymmetrical effect. On the right side in the back, a deep bag pocket is inserted into the horizontal flat pleating. Lower back fullness is created by a box pleat with an inverted pleat in its centre, forming a train embellished with a large bow near the hemline. Three sets of tape ties inserted into the inner seams of the back of the skirt serve to fit it tightly to the body.

  • What

    In the 1870s and 1880s, wedding gowns were frequently of a colour other than white. At the time Mrs. Brennan's dress was ordered, plum tones were the height of fashion.

  • Where

    In the January 30, 1877, edition of the Montreal newspaper The Evening Star, under the caption "New Dress Goods," J. Carroll and Co. advertised ten sorts of fabric, all available in "Plum Colors." And in the August 31, 1878, edition of The Montreal Daily Witness, S. Carsley, located at 393 and 395 Notre Dame St., announced a "New lot of all shades Plum, the best value that we have."

  • When

    The year assigned to this dress is substantiated by donor information regarding the wedding date. The dating is confirmed by the fact that back pockets like the one seen here were popular from about 1876 to 1878.

  • Who

    Mrs. John Brennan (née Mary Ryan) wore this dress at her marriage in Montreal, around 1878. Before it was given to the Museum, the dress belonged to Margaret, Mrs. Brennan's oldest daughter.