Tales from the Stores: Kathleen’s dress

Join Collections Assistant Caroline Morris as she explores the Museum stores.

Walking around the museum you may not be aware that our collection includes textiles, from smocks and uniforms to samplers and underwear. Yet in the depths of the stores… well one of the smaller rooms in the stores… we have a variety of boxed and hung delights.

Amongst the hangers I came across a cream wedding dress in two parts, bodice and skirt. For reasons I cannot explain I decided that this frock needed further investigation; back to the database and the catalogue cards.

Wedding Dress  Wedding Dress

As with many aspects of fashion, the white wedding dress was made popular by Queen Victoria. Before that, although brides did wear white when they could afford it, even the wealthiest and most royal among them also wore coloured gowns. The rise of photography, and of wedding portraits in particular, popularized the white-wedding-dress because they showed up well in the photographs. Very often, if the bride were not rich or royal, they would wear whatever colour their best dress happened to be. The wedding dress was seldom a single use garment.

This dress is an example of a late Victorian & early Edwardian solution to reuse of the wedding dress – being made with separate bodice and skirt. Very often the dresses were made with two bodices and one skirt – one bodice for the wedding and one evening bodice. The latter could be worn until the dress was no longer fashionable and the wedding bodice kept as an object of sentiment.

The original card for this dress was unusually informative. This cotton and silk dress had been worn in 1909 by Kathleen Muriel Arkell of Southrop when she married Donald Hoddinott of Buscot – Kathleen was 23, Donald was 26. The card also said that we had their wedding photograph and on the back of the card was a complete list of the guests pictured. There I drew a blank as the photograph seemed to be missing from the digital database – luckily one of our volunteers is truly the queen of the photographic archive, recognised the description and found the photograph.

This photograph shows Kathleen in the dress on her wedding day. The family stand in front of Southrop Manor. Kathleen’s father farmed Southrop Manor Farm.

Wedding photo

Standing – left to right – Lesley Arkell, Simon Hoddinott (groom’s brother), Edith Hoddinott (Simons wife), Thomas Arkell (brides half-brother), Hilda Hoddinott (groom’s sister), Harvey Hoddinott (best man and groom’s brother), Groom & Bride, May Arkell (Bride’s sister & bridesmaid), Norman Hoddinott (groom’s brother), Thomas Arkell (father of the bride), Evan Hoddinott (groom’s brother). Sitting – left to right – Susan Hoddinott (groom’s sister), Grandma Hoddinott (groom’s mother), Amy Hoddinott (youngest sister of the bride & bridesmaid), Grandma Arkell (bride’s mother), Ruth Hoddinott (wife of Evan).

Wedding photo

Seen in close up the couple look terribly serious, but we have no records about what happened after this country wedding. However, it is sad to think that only five years later some of these men could have been caught up in the fighting of the First World War.

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