At heart this is a very heartwarming story of a Pennsylvannia bride about to wear a 120 year old dress worn by 10 other brides in her family and descended from the original bride who who lived in Buffalo. But the interesting thing about this dress to New Yorkers is that it was made in NYC in 1895.
At that time the city was establishing itself as the center of the garment trade in America. Huge numbers of immigrants were swelling the ranks of NYC garment workers, most of them Jewish. And often their first job was working in a factory or sweatshop enduring appalling conditions for small wages, all in the name of establishing themselves in their chosen City.
However this dress would not have been produced in a factory, it would have been made by a dressmaker as most, if not all of it appears to have been handmade of very expensive silk satin. For this 11th bride to wear it, it has had to be extensively rehabbed and remade.
It’s current sleeves, an exact copy of the original ones, required 3 days of hand sewing to complete the pleats at the top of the sleeves alone, a very expensive proposition today let alone in 1895. For a shot of the pleats see the video. The cost of making it means only a well to do New Yorker could afford to buy it, so the Buffalo family was not shy of a penny.
A further clue that this bride’s great, great grandmother came from a well to do Buffalo family is the quality of the lace on the dress, another expensive feature. Also the design appears to have been influenced by the French designer Charles Frederick Worth. It would not have been an original design but it tells us that dressmakers in NYC at the time were paying close attention to the designs coming out of Paris and copying them.
It’s worth going to see a picture of the original bride. Click Here for Picture of original bride That original picture of the Bride from Buffalo wearing the wedding dress from NYC tells us that how we wear clothes has altered as much as what we wear. See that tiny waist? The original bride went through her wedding day trussed up really tightly, so tightly that her bosoms are elevated giving her a really different body profile to her great, great grandaughter.
It’s a fine tribute to this family that this dress has been treasured and used for so long and that the story has had so much publicity. It’s a great opportunity so explore a real example of New York history too. I wonder how that original bride got her balloon sleeves to stand out so stiffly from her shoulders? It looks great and again alters the body silhouette