|Leigh Ann Brown|
Brown's love of all things bridal more than makes up for my lack of interest. What started as a modest collection of antique and vintage clothing has morphed into more than 250 gowns worn by brides from the Civil War era through last year. Except for six gowns on dress forms in her dining room, the dresses live in a climate-controlled room in her home. (In case you're wondering, the gowns in the dining room are switched out frequently.) In her presentations, Brown walks her audience through history from the perspective of the women who wore the 20+ gowns she's brought with her for the day. It was fascinating.
|A sleeping corset|
With all the men gone, women had to step it up. They realized that their poor little brains did, in fact, have the capacity to deal with finances and other "manly" matters. By 1870, mothers pushed their daughters to go to college and get the education they wish they'd had themselves. As Brown said, "the lid on top of them was suddenly open."
What, Brown asked, could we possibly have in common with this bride? As it turned out, she was a doctor, as was her husband. As Brown said, a world of possibilities had opened up for these women.
Brown's collection includes not only gowns, but pictures of the brides and other wedding items from shoes to guest books to invitations. So in addition to this 1903 gown, we got to see the bride looking a bit solemn as she embarked on her new life as a married woman. Brown noted this bride would have only been wearing six layers of clothing beneath her dress. Progress was being made.
One morning the 19 year old George saw a suffragette literally standing on a soapbox in a park as she talked to passersby about the importance of women having the right to vote. George thought, "Now that's the woman for me!" At 27 years old, "Lovie" was considered a spinster and had likely reconciled herself to a life alone. Upon meeting, the couple immediately fell in love. And here's the best part of the story. The bride held suffrage rallies up and down the East Coast at each stop on their honeymoon decked out in her wool suit/wedding dress.
My head was whirling with all the history Brown shared. It was during WWI that women were freed from their corsets -- the steel in them was needed for the war effort. (Amazingly, until then, women actually wore corsets through the seventh month of their pregnancies.) All the layers had been shed as well, enabling women to work in factories and offices.
When our groom deployed, he was a 19 year old lad in love with a 15 year old girl. Not surprisingly, her parents said she too young to get married. But she wrote him daily, and her letters helped keep his spirits up. He vowed he would make it home to her.
On D Day, he parachuted into Normandy. After a safe landing, he quickly grabbed his parachute and stuffed it into his backpack. He fought and lived to tell the tale. He came home and his parachute--made partially of silk--was used for her wedding gown. They were happily married for 54 years. Truly a tale for the ages.
Thanks to Leigh Ann Brown for a wonderful afternoon filled with stories of history and love. To see more of her collection, you can find her on Facebook by clicking here. If you ever get the chance to see one of her presentations, don't miss it.