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“Here Comes the Bride….”

How to get hitched in the Roaring Twenties

Hi there- Bette Hardwick here from sometime in the 1920s. My best gal-pal is getting hitched so I thought I’d better brush up on all my wedding etiquette before her big day. And who better to go to than dear old Emily Post. Even my Ma listens to her advice when it comes to manners.

Weddings are complicated matters, so I’ve divided up my articles into Bridal Wear; Wedding Party; and The Wedding Day.

The Dress:


Everyone knows what a wedding dress is like. It may be of any white material, satin, brocade, velvet, chiffon or entirely of lace. It may be embroidered in pearls, crystals or silver; or it may be as plain as a slip-cover—anything in fact that the bride fancies, and made in whatever fashion or period she may choose.

“A white dress for the bride is more or less traditional, and it is very infrequent that one has the courage to break away from the custom.
However a Society bride of a few weeks back was venturesome enough to go to the alter in peacock blue. The dress was designed on the usual stately lines that wedding gowns follow, and had a magnificent train of cloth of silver lined with blue ninon. Silver leaves held the bridal veil of blue tulle.
It was a startling innovation and I must confess that the result was extraordinarily effective.”

Brides have been known to choose colors other than white. Cloth of silver is quite conventional and so is very deep cream, but cloth of gold suggests the wedding clothing of a widow rather than that of a virgin maid—of which the white and orange blossoms, or myrtle leaf, are the emblems.

If a bride chooses to be married in traveling dress, she has no bridesmaids, though she often has a maid of honor. A “traveling” dress is either a “tailor made” if she is going directly on a boat or train, or a morning or afternoon dress—whatever she would “wear away” after a big wedding.

The Veil:

The veil in the 1920s is long, often ending as a train. For many brides, the garland rather than the veil seems to have been of greatest importance. The garland was the “coronet of the good girl,” and her right to wear it was her inalienable attribute of virtue.

The face veil is a rather old-fashioned custom, and is appropriate only for a very young bride of a demure type; the tradition being that a maiden is too shy to face a congregation unveiled, and shows her face only when she is a married woman.

Gloves:


Some brides prefer to remove their left glove by merely pulling it inside out at the altar.

Usually the under seam of the wedding finger of her glove is ripped for about two inches and she need only pull the tip off to have the ring put on. Or, if the wedding is a small one, she wears no gloves at all.

The Bouquet:


Bigger is best when it comes to bouquets. Packed with ferns and orange blossoms, there are often streamers attached also embellished with orange blossoms.

*Rose representing love
*Lily-of-the-valley for happiness
*Carnation representing devotion
*Calla lily for beauty
*Tulip representing passion
*Chrysanthemum for wealth
*Gardenia representing grace

Incorporating orange blossoms into the bride’s costume originated in ancient China where they were emblems of purity, chastity and innocence. Because the orange is one of the rare plants that blooms and bears fruit at the same time, it is symbolic of fruitfulness. When real orange blossoms were unavailable, wax replicas were used instead. These artificial blooms were often passed down from one generation to the next.

The Trousseau

Trousseau is a French word meaning “little bundle.” It was supposed to be those items which a bride took with her in order to set up her new household.

A traditional trousseau – usually stored throughout childhood and adolescence in a hope chest – included jewelry, lingerie and toiletries, plus bed linens, bath towels and tablecloths. Many of the items in the trousseau were hand-sewn by female relatives (mother, aunt, grandmother, cousin) or the girl herself if she was skilled with needle and thread.

For many women, the trousseau also included brand new outfits to see her through her wedding, honeymoon and newlywed days. By the 1920s, well-to-do society brides purchased their new clothing at upscale clothing stores such as Macy’s, Marshall Field and Neiman Marcus.

By the end of the century concentration had shifted from extravagant clothing to underwear. The tendency was to amass enough to last the bride the rest of her. Around this time there was also a move towards collecting linen for the marital home.

A bride’s trousseau continued to be an important feature of preparations for marriage well into the thirties. The April 1930 issue of Good Housekeeping itemized a fashionable trousseau at a cost of $386.15. It included a satin wedding gown, a veil, a 3-piece going away outfit, and a suitcase of additional dresses, jackets and lingerie.

In addition to clothing, every bride had a few linens in her trousseau: towels, sheets, tablecloths, etc. Few could envision, however, the linens included in the trousseau outlined for the “daughter of the very rich” by author Emily Post. She described this “most lavish trousseau imaginable,” which would require “the services of a van to transport,” in her landmark book, Etiquette:

  • Linen Sheets  12 to 72, embroidered, monogrammed
  • Linen Sheets  12 to 72, plain, monogrammed
  • Linen Undersheets  12 to 72, plain, monogrammed
  • Pillow Cases  24 to 144 to match sheets
  • Silk Blanket Covers  12 to 24, lace edged, washable
  • Blankets  6 to 12
  • Quilts  3 to 12, wool or down-filled
  • Face Towels  24 to 120, extra large, monogrammed
  • Plain Towels  60 to 120, monogrammed
  • Hand Towels  60 to 120 to match plain towels
  • Large Bath Towels  12 to 24, monogrammed
  • Hand Towels  24 to 48, to match bath towels
  • Very Large Damask Tablecloth  monogrammed
  • Dinner Napkins  36 to match very large tablecloth
  • Large Damask Tablecloth  monogrammed
  • Dinner Napkins  24 to match large damask tablecloth
  • Medium Damask Tablecloths  12 to 48, monogrammed
  • Dinner Napkins  12 per medium tablecloth (from 144 to 576)
  • Medium Luncheon Tablecloths  2-6, Italian lace
  • Luncheon Napkins  12 per luncheon tablecloth (from 24 to 72)
  • Centerpieces  2 to 6
  • Doilies  several per centerpiece
  • Lunch Napkins  several per centerpiece
  • Tea Cloths  4 to 12, with Russian embroidery
  • Tea Napkins  12 per tea cloth, monogrammed (from 48 to 144)
  • Plain Damask Tablecloths  12 to 24, monogrammed
  • Napkins  12 per plain damask tablecloth (from 144 to 288 napkins)
  • Kitchen Towels  24 to 72
  • Pantry Towels  24 to 72
  • Dishcloths  24 to 72

In addition, this extravagant trousseau was to include dozens of additional sheets, pillowcases, blankets, quilts, towels, tablecloths and napkins – for use by the servants.

1 Comment

  1. JazzFeathers says:

    Loved it.
    Surprisingly, webbings isn’t something discussed all that much when talking about the 1920s. Maybe because all the focus is on the ’emancipation’ of the woman.
    Thanks for sharing.

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