Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Vintage Bridal Gowns: on view at the Pasadena Historical Museum


This lovely satin bridal gown opens an exhibition of wedding dresses currently on display at the Pasadena Historical Museum. Carefully edited, this collection of gowns shows bridal designs from the WWII era through current styles as worn by brides from Pasadena.

This first gown shown was designed and sewn in 1944 by Seamstress Auntie Nui of slipper satin. It was worn by Chiyoi Marumoto Ogawa, one of the young women who were married in the WWII Japanese concentration camps here in California. This dressmaker went on to provide many more gowns for the brides in this camp, as well as in Pasadena after the war. Typical of all gowns during the war tie, it is a simple dress with long sleeves and flattering shirred bodice that was typical of the draping worn during that era.


The post war years saw an explosion in marriages as the GIs returned home again. While the expense of a wedding gown was often beyond the budget of many young couples, wedding gowns grew in importance. Often one gown would be shared by many brides. From 1948, this gown by bridal designer William Cahill of Beverly Hills shows what the best in wedding gowns looked like. Of shiny slipper satin, the neckline is framed in a lace bertha collar. Like most gowns of this time, it has modest long sleeves suitable for wearing in church. This dress was worn by bride Jane Campbell Wells of Pasadena.

Of special local interest, this gown was the first bridal ensemble sold at Bullock's, Pasadena when it opened in 1948. Later this high end chain of department stores would be sold. Now the original building is owned by Macy's, who recently rehabilitated the architecturally significant building.


This curvy 1952 Cahill gown of nylon lace and tulle was paired with a small, fitted lace skull cap that had a veil attached. It has many features similar to crinoline gowns of the mid-1800's. The silhouette has a dramatic shirred "V" neckline and the classic "New Look" hourglass full skirt. The ensemble was worn by bride Marilyn Hubbard Roberts.


In 1955, the Governor of California's daughter Carolyn Knight Weedman wore this William Cahill gown for her wedding in the governor's mansion, Sacramento. It shows alencon lace, satin, and silk chiffon. The lace bodice with Elizabethan collar is fitted, with long sleeves and an hourglass silhouette that has a dropped waistline with a slight curve in front. To create the ballerina length skirt (which Cahill was famous for designing), there were four layers of fabric: silk chiffon with decorative stitching (top layer), nylon netting nylon bobbin net, and ribbed acetate (slip layer).


From 1958, this dramatic debutant dress with draped skirt and textured bodice by Cahill shows how far formal gowns evolved in just a few years. The gown of silk taffeta has a draped bubble skirt with train in back. The bodice is textured with layers of fabric flower petals and dips low in the back. It was worn by Janet Curci who wore a silk and tulle, beaded gown for her wedding later in 1962.

This exhibition of wedding gowns is displayed in the galleries of the Pasadena Historical Museum. The show also includes gowns from the 1960s to present day. The museum itself is worth a visit, as it is on the grounds of a large mansion located on the famous Orange Grove section of old Pasadena. This exhibit is on view through November 3, 2013.

2 comments:

Lizzie said...

These are all stunning, especially the last one. And I loved learning about Auntie Nui.

Lynn said...

Now I'm sorry that I missed this exhibit. There is a lot to learn from looking at changing tastes in bridal wear. The now discontinued blog Of Another Fashion had a lot of information about sewing in the internment camps, and some significant California dressmakers who emerged from there.

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