Thursday, June 30, 2016


Less than a week after the American Girl Doll Tea, Hearthside House hosted a new exhibit of Vintage Wedding Fashions.  Thanks to Lady Estelle T. Barada for taking the lead and organizing the exhibit in such a short time period.  It was very well attended and was featured in the Providence Journal as one of the top 5 things to do the weekend of June 11-12.  Rhode Island Monthly also featured a blog about the exhibit the day before.  We appreciate these boosts of publicity! Special thanks to Diane Adam for the lovely display of her aunt's wedding gown, Beverly Cournoyer for her grandmother's, and to Carolyn Sloat and Audrey Godin for donating their ancestors wedding gowns, as well as their own, to Hearthside's collections.   The informational panels were created by RIC student Nat Cokely.   We now have an exhibit which may return again next June! 
 Photos by David Cruz.

Lady Estelle T.Barada was in her glory among all the vintage dresses in her display.


Wedding dresses belonging to sisters Audrey Godin and Carolyn Sloat.
  Carolyn was married in a satin dress in 1957 that had been worn by her aunt, Joyce Stochton-Binyon in 1950.
Audrey and Carolyn are the great,great granddaughters of Daniel & Louisa Meader who owned Hearthside in 1890.
  Audrey's dress was a replica of the one worn by her grandmother, Esther Meader Binyon in 1916.
Visitors were surprised to see a brown plaid taffeta dress that had been a wedding dress for the marriage of Josephine Rogers Elliott to Frank Meader, son of Daniel & Louisa Meader in 1886. The Meader family lived at Hearthside from 1890 to 1901.  
Roger and Jean Rainville loaned their mother's 1950s satin wedding dress, which is volunteer Diane Adam's aunt.  
 Visitors enjoyed the more familiar white satin wedding dress and tuxedo from the 1950s.
 A full Victorian wedding outfit with full veil was representative of the first white wedding gowns made popular by Queen Victoria. 

Antique wedding shoes help illustrate the story about the tradition of stealing the bride's wedding slippers.
 The dining room table was set for a formal reception. Place settings of antique china were donated by Mary McKenna, the silverware by Christopher Willigan, and the water goblets by Charles Cox, all of which are now in our collections.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Vintage Weddings Exhibit at Hearthside House

Researching old Wedding Traditions.

In ancient times, weddings were based out of commodity, rather than desire or love. In fact, the word "wedding" implies the security the groom's family provides to the family of the bride when the couple marries. Additionally, brides were chosen based on their economic worth. The wedding had little to do with love. This trend lasted until the 19th Century, when couples started to marry for love.

Something Old,
Something New,
Something Borrowed,
Something Blue,
A Silver Sixpence Inside Your Shoe.' 

Where did this old saying and tradition in Weddings come from?

The saying, "Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence inside your shoe," dates back to the Victorian era and requires the bride to accessorize her wedding attire in certain ways to promote good luck in her new marriage. 

The "something old" is supposed to represent the past, particularly the bond between the bride and her family. The bride might choose to wear a piece of jewelry from one of her elders, or another accessory given to her from an older relative.
 The "something new" represents the couple getting married and their future together. Usually, the bride's wedding gown or wedding ring is used as a new item. "Something borrowed" is something that is taken from the families and meant to be returned. By borrowing something, the bride is continuing the link between herself and her family to maintain loyalty and future comfort. The borrowed item must come from a happily married woman in order to pass on marital happiness onto the new couple. "Something blue" represents the bride's faithfulness and loyalty. Easy ways to incorporate the color blue is for the bride to wear blue flowers in her hair or a blue garter. 
 The silver sixpence is meant to be tucked into the bride's shoe and is supposed to bring the new couple wealth in money and love in their new life together.

Bridal Showers?

Bridal showers originated in Holland for brides who were refused dowry from their fathers. A woman's friends would give her several gifts to allow her to have the necessary dowry to marry whatever man she chose.

Not seeing the Bride before the Wedding?

Many couples will make precautions so that they will not be able to see each other until their wedding ceremony. Today, this is done merely to uphold tradition and superstition, but the idea stems from the early days when marriages were arranged. In these cases, the bride and groom would meet each other for the first time at their own wedding. 

 Choosing Bridesmaid and Best man?

 Bridesmaids in the ceremony originated as a technique of confusing evil spirits as to who the actual bride was. 


  Groomsmen originated not for protection, but many centuries ago when men had to capture women in order to marry them. In order to steal the woman they chose to marry, men needed to pick the most capable man to help him, hence "best man".

Giving the bride away?

  Centuries ago, fathers actually did give their daughters away to their future husbands, since females were considered property of their fathers.

 The meaning and origin of the ceremonial kiss?

The Ceremonial Kiss traditionally concludes the ceremony has several different interpretations.
 In the Roman era, a kiss was used to seal legal bonds and contracts. 
A marriage, a type of lifelong contract between two people, is sealed with the ceremonial kiss. 
It is also believed that this kiss allows the couples' souls to mingle together.

 Wedding cakes?

  It seemed the  wedding cakes have a more serious history. The cake was widely seen as symbols of fertility. Sharing the first piece of wedding cake  originated as a way to ensure fertility for the bride in her attempts to have children. Superstition says that a bride cannot bake her own wedding cake or taste it before the wedding, or else risk losing her husband's love. If she keeps a piece of the cake after the wedding, she supposedly ensures that he will remain faithful.

 Throwing rice?

A way that guests at a wedding can participate in giving the bride and groom a lucky future is by the tradition of throwing rice. The superstition originated when guests would throw nuts and grains in the hope of bringing the couple a good harvest and many children to help with the harvest.

Throwing of the bouquet?

As a symbol of luck, the newly married woman traditionally throws her bouquet to the unmarried women at the wedding. The one who catches the bouquet is supposedly the next to be married.

 Throwing the bride's garter?

 An older custom in England involved guests raiding the bride's chamber for stockings. These stockings taken from her room would then be thrown at the groom. Whoever landed their stocking on the groom's nose would be the next one to marry.
 Even earlier than these traditions, it was an ancient custom for the bride or groom to throw the bride's garter to the marriage witnesses to confirm that their marriage had been consummated.

 The Honeymoon?

The term "honeymoon" comes from ancient Germanic weddings, where the newly married couple would drink mead for thirty days after their wedding. Weddings were only held on a night where there was a full moon. They drank the honey wine for a month, thirty days, until the next full moon, hence the name "honey moon.".

 Carrying new wife across the threshold?

The tradition of the groom carrying his new wife across the threshold has many different interpretations. The act symbolizes luck and the bride giving the groom her virginity. In older generation, brides had to appear unwilling to give in to their new husband. The husband would pretend to force his new wife into giving in to him by carrying her over the threshold.  In the days when men captured their wives and actually did force women to marry them, she was also forced over the threshold because she was unwilling.

History of Victorian Weddings.

During the 19th Century in America, weddings were usually small family gatherings at the home of either the parents of the bride or the parents of the groom. The ceremonies were intimate and not elaborate in ones parlor.

 The announcement of the newly married couple took place at their church on the Sunday following the wedding. 

 Weddings did not become elaborate until the 1820s and 1830s, when upper class couples would have wedding ceremonies similar to what is common today.

 The bride usually wore the best dress she owned, so her dress was not always white, as white dresses were impractical to own.

 Not until the middle of the 19th century did brides start buying a dress made specifically for their wedding day.

Victorian Wedding Fashions.

Early Victorian (1837-1868)
Prior to the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901), women's wedding dresses traditionally followed the fashionable silhouettes and colors, including white, of their day. The white of choice for most brides was not a pure white, however, rather a cream or ivory color which was more flattering to the complexion.

Queen Victoria's marriage in February 1840 is often cited as the marker which began our white wedding dress tradition. Her choice of a plain white satin dress and orange blossom wreath headdress with lace veil was shockingly plain by royal standards and a significant departure from the royal tradition of a dress embroidered with silver and encrusted with jewels, a jeweled crown, and velvet robes trimmed with fur.

The Queen's daughter, Princess Alice, and the Princess of Wales were also married in white dresses with orange blossom wreath headdresses in 1858 and 1863 respectively, continuing the precedent set by Victoria. Royal weddings have always influenced the wedding ceremonies of non-royal brides and grooms, the brides often imitating the dress of princesses.
Late Victorian (1868-1901)
Weddings were celebrated during the morning hours until changes in church law in 1886 allowed afternoon weddings. In keeping with Victorian society's modest propriety for daytime dress, necklines were high and sleeves long. Wedding dresses of many socially prominent brides were altered for evening attire, or a second bodice was made for evening-one with a lower neckline and no sleeves.


 Beaded grey silk wedding dress with velvet trim, by dressmaker Mary Molloy, American (St. Paul, Minn.), 1891. Worn by Martha English Berry for her July 6, 1891 wedding.


 Dresses could be white or colored. Socially prominent brides wore white, while those of the working or artisan classes wore a new 'best' dress which was usually a more practical color than white, and worn for more than one occasion. When in mourning, brides could wear a black, gray, or lavender color dress.


  19th century wedding dresses | Wedding dress 1899 | 19th Century fashion

At afternoon weddings, many brides chose to get married in their going-away dresses, which were often practical traveling suits.

Wedding dress styles generally followed the current fashionable daytime styles and were worn with either a bonnet or veil.


  1870 Wedding Bonnet Culture: British Medium: silk satin, velvet, silk 


 It was not until the end of the 1860s, however, that veils were worn over the face.


 Wedding Gown Date:1866 Place:United States

  Military Weddings.

 A couple whose bride and/or groom is a member of the Armed Forces may have a military wedding in which the bride and/or groom wears their uniform. 

1940s War Bride

A military wedding is considered a formal wedding and guests should dress formally. 
Often, the guests will also be in the armed forces and will wear their uniforms as well. 

The ushers who are in the armed forces traditionally form an "arch of steel" with their swords or sabers. However, only active duty servicemen participate, as they can only carry their sword or saber if they are active duty. 
The arch is usually formed at the conclusion of the ceremony, and the head usher signals the formation by yelling "center face." 

After the bride and groom pass through the arch, the ushers return to their bridesmaids to exit with them. 
Civilian ushers  may not stand at the arch.

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Honorable Mention:

Costume Contest USA Entry 29.) Dress: Historic Hearthside House Hostess Gown Victorian Costume Contest

Victorian Dress Costume ContestComment by JUDGE Lisa Schnapp: 8/15/2010

"Lovely, glowing creation blended of soft, feminine hues. A stunning gown that embodies Victorian style femininity..."