Jump to Navigation

All That Glitters - Part 5

Dressed in White: Wedding Gowns

This title is a play on words, because as you can see not all these wedding dresses are white. Bridal gowns have come in many colors over the years.

Blue taffeta gown, ca. 


Blue Taffeta, early 1870s

Nellie Forbes married Sam Croft in this gown in Illinois about 1872. The couple moved to Kansas sometime after 1885.

It has a bustle and the jacket-style bodice just becoming popular in the early 1870s, but is simply ornamented like many dresses from the previous decade. Only beige handmade lace trims the ends of the sleeves and the bottom of the bodice.

View close-up of lace on sleeves and bodice hem.





Off-white beads and lace, 1884 & 1911.

Off-white Beads and Lace, 1884 & 1911

Some wedding dresses are passed from mother to daughter. Minnie Sharp of Topeka wore this gown to her wedding in 1884. Her mother sewed the dresses' extensive beading. Later, Minnie's daughter Helen altered the gown for her own wedding in 1911. The dress was altered yet again some years later, perhaps to be worn by either woman.

This ornate gown has a long train that is heavily decorated with glass beads, faux pearls, and lace. The fitted bodice is boned at the seams, and the collar is supported by wire.

View a close-up of lace and beading on skirt.




Beige satin wedding gown, 1895.

Beige Satin, 1895

Ola Brinkman wore this cream-colored satin gown at her wedding to G. Lorenzo Chapman on October 9, 1895, in Great Bend, Kansas.

This typical 1890s gown has the decade's exaggerated sleeves, known as leg-of-mutton for their resemblance to that cut of meat. The sleeves contain paper supports to maintain their fullness. The bodice's high collar is also typical of the decade, and is trimmed at back with a satin bow.

View a close-up of bodice.




Japanese silk gown, 1896.

Japanese Silk, 1896

Large sleeves were very popular in the 1890s. Sometimes called leg-of-mutton, these oversized sleeves could require as much as one yard of fabric each.

Worn by Susan Kistler at her wedding to Rev. Edward Chester, this gown was rather simple for its time, in keeping with the couple's missionary status. The Chesters married in Gantur, India, on April 9, 1896. Mrs. Chester brought the dress to Kansas in 1918 and left it with her brother, William, in Waterville.

Made of Japanese silk, the dress is ornamented with faux pearls around the collar and cuffs. Beadwork is also draped from silk bows at the shoulders to the center front.

View close-up of ornamentation on bodice.



Coral silk Pouter Pigeon dress, 1905.

Coral Silk Pouter Pigeon, 1905

Rather than choose white for her wedding, Ellen May Smith wore this coral-colored frock when she married Ross Holland Jones on February 6, 1905, in Atchison, Kansas. Her wedding ensemble also included a petticoat, gloves, and stockings, all of which are in the collections of the Kansas Museum of History.

The bodice has the pouter pigeon front considered highly fashionable in the early 1900s. Its neckline is trimmed with wide bands of lace. The sleeves' fullness is maintained with tapes hidden inside. A bib-shaped insert fills in the surplice neckline.

View close-up of bodice with waistline.



This concludes the Kansas Museum of History's online exhibit, All That Glitters: Dressing Up & Stepping Out.

  1. Hoops & Bustles: 1860s-1880s
  2. Turn of the Century: 1890-1910
  3. The Party Decade: 1920s
  4. The Honor of Your Company: Inaugural Ball Gowns
  5. Dressed in White: Wedding Gowns

Contact us at kshs.kansasmuseum@ks.gov