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Regency Weddings

Historical Wedding Dresses

Today there are a few dresses that have survived the time and some that have been identified as wedding gowns. Still in existence today is Princess Charlottes silver wedding dress of 1816 v, recently exhibited at the Museum of London. This elaborate gown in silver "net" (lace) over white silk is cut in the apron style so popular at the time. It is trimmed with plenty of silver lace as well. Note that this dress doesn't look exactly as the dress depicted in the etching published in the May 1816 issue by La Belle Ansembleé.

Ivory silk taffeta gown worn by Anne
Catherine Spurck of Chillicothe, Ohio
at her wedding on July 4, 1817. 17

The ivory silk "Schaffner Wedding
Dress" of 1824 from Pennsylvania,
USA. 18

Princess Charlotte's wedding dress,
1816. White silk net, embroidered in
silver strip, trimmed with silver lace. 19

Anne Catherine Spurck's wedding dress of 1817 w, now in the Ohio Historical Society's collection, makes quite a contrast to the sumptious wedding gown of a princess. Miss Spurck's wedding dress is an ivory silk taffeta gown, rather plain, and cut somewhat low over the bust. It has long sleeves, gathered around the wrist and the cuff let fall over the hand, rather wide for the time with deeply pleats in the back. We don't know what she wore with it but perhaps something similar to the silk hat now displayed with it.

Another American wedding gown from the Regency era surviving till today is the so called Schaffner Wedding Dress from 1824 x. This dress is also made of heavy silk but is more ornated than the previous. Particularly the sleeves are of interest as they are long with ebroidered cuffs and have the added feature of a puffed short sleeve atop the long one, embellished with a criss-cross pattern of figured silk, fastened with bone buttons. The model is otherwise rather plain, with drawstring ties at both neck and waist. This gown is quite wide and not as elegant as the previous one.

Finally we will have a look at the wedding dress of Emma Talbot y. She was married at Penrice Castle on 18th June 1833 in a white dress, very much in the style of what we today consider a traditional wedding dress. Emma's dress is made of cream silk net covering a silk satin undergown. It ornamented with wide brussel lace, fancy embroidery and wide satin ribbons. The dress is short, only 122 cm (48") from neck to hem, and although shorter dresses were in vogue 1830-35, even showing part of the calf, Emma must have been rather petite or the dress was remade at a later date for somebody else.

Emma Talbot's wedding dress of 1833 20

There are certainly other examples of wedding dresses in different collection, but what we have looked at makes it clear that the Regency writer that puts her heroine in a white wedding dress isn't as far off as we sometimes may think!

Late Regency Prints

Below is a few prints found that cover the late Regency and beyound. The first print is from France, first published in a book called "Les Apprits D'un Mariage a Paris" by Pierre-Roch Vigneron around 1823 z. Reproduced here is a detail of plate #65 that shows the bride in a white silk dress and a long, white veil. Her dress has short puffed sleeves, a lace ruffle edges the decollage, the overdress is edged by lace trim and a white satin sach around the high waist. We even get a glimpse of the bride's petticoat, of thin linen trimmed with several rows of drawstring work.

The second image is of Miss [Catherine] Stephens aa dressed as Susanna in "The Marriage of Figaro." She first sung this roll in 1819, but judging by the slightly lower and fitted bodice of the gown, this portrait was probaly painted in 1827, when she toured England in this production bb. Note the white silk satin dress, heavily trimmed, and the white veil with a matching pointed edge.

French bride in white 182321
Miss Stephens as Susanna 182722
Early Victorian bride 184423

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17. Ivory Silk Taffeta Gown Unknown maker, Chillicothe, Ohio, 1817. Now in the collection of the Ohio Historical Society.
18. Schaffner Wedding Dress, 1824 (Marietta, Pennsylvania)
19. Princess Charlotte's wedding dress, 1816. Dress in the Museum of London
20. Emma Talbot's Wedding Dress of 18th June 1833, now in the collection of The Museum Stores at Landore in the Stores
21. 'Les Apprits D'un Mariage a Paris', 1823. Lithographer, Julien Vallou de Villeneuve.
22. Miss Stephens as Susanna in the Marriage of Figaro 1830-1834 by S.W. Reynolds
23. 'The Bridal Eve' Artist E.T. Parris, Engraver Thomson. Published by Peter Jackson, London & Paris, 1844

Notes on the text:

v: Princess Charlotte's Wedding gown, now in collection of the Museum of London. White silk net embroidered in silver strip with a spotted ground and borders. The wedding dress, composed of a most magnificent silver lama on net, over a rich silver tissue slip, with a superb border of silver lama embroidery at the bottom, forming shells and bouquets above the border; a most elegant fullness tastefully designed, in festoons of rich silver lama, and finished with a very brilliant rollio of lama; the body and sleeves to correspond, trimmed with a most beautiful point Brussels lace, in a peculiar elegant style. The manteau of rich silver tissue lined with white satin, trimmed round with a most superb silver lama border, in shells to correspond with the dress, and fastened in front with a most brilliant and costly ornament of diamonds. The whole dress surpassed all conception in the brilliancy and richness of its effects. Head dress, a wreath of rose buds and leaves, composed of the most superb brilliants. Description of Princess Charlotte's Wedding from the May 1816 issue of The Lady's Magazine.

w: Ivory Silk Taffeta Gown Unknown maker, Chillicothe, Ohio, 1817. Worn by Anne Catherine Spurck of Chillicothe, Ohio, to her marriage with Peter Dittoe of Somerset, Ohio, on July 4, 1817. Collection of the Ohio Historical Society, H40010.

x: Schaffner Wedding Dress, 1824 (Marietta, Pennsylvania) Ivory silk with drawstring ties at neck and waist. More photos of the wedding gown

y: 'Emma Talbot's Wedding Dress,' now in the collection of The Museum Stores at Landore in the Stores: "At Penrice Castle on 18th June 1833, Rev. Henry Strangways conducted the marriage of Emma Thomasina Talbot, daughter of Thomas Mansel Talbot to John Dillwyn Llewelyn, eldest son of Lewis Weston Dillwyn. This is the beautiful dress that Emma wore on that auspicious day. Made of cream silk satin covered with cream silk net, the dress measures just 122cm (48ins) from neck to hem, Emma must have been extremely petite. It is decorated with satin ribbon and intricate embroidery. The design of the dress is historically important in as much as it heralds the change from the Regency to the Victorian style."

z: 'Les Apprits D'un Mariage a Paris' Galerie lithographiče de son Altesse royale Monseigneur le Duc d'Orlčans. Lithographer, Julien Vallou de Villeneuve. Printer, Charles Etienne Pierre Motte 1823.

aa: Miss Catherine (Kitty) Stephens, (1794-1882), Countess of Essex, the daughter of Edward Stephens of Leadwell, Oxfordshire, a carver and gilder of London. She was said to have had the sweetest soprano voice of her time, both in opera and as a concert singer. She was a famous vocalist and actress, who in 1813, at the age of 19, made her debut at Covent Garden. She was scandalously married to George Capell Coningsby, the 5th Earl of Essex, on 14 April 1838. He was aged 80, she was 44. They were married by special licence at the Earl's house in Belgrave Square, London, and honeymooned at Cassiobury. She died on 22 Feb 1882, aged 87

bb: Playbill advertising Miss Stephens and Miss Johnstone in THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO, with Mr. Simpson and his dogs in THE DOG OF MONTARGIS, at the Theatre Royal, Birmingham, 30 July 1827. Theatre Royal, New Street, Birmingham, Warwickshire, England


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