I Do! I Do! Pasadena Ties the Knot 1850 to 1950, spotlights the wedding dress as an icon of social customs through the decades between 1850 and 1950. I Do! I Do! also provides the Museum with the opportunity to present the historical narratives associated with our costume and textile collection.
Pasadenans have been walking down the aisle following age-old traditions since the arrival of the first settlers of the Indiana Colony. I Do! I Do! features forty-two bridal gowns and the wedding stories that accompany them. Gowns from the Museum’s own costume and textile collection show the evolution of the wedding dress from a woman’s best dress worn in weddings of the 1860s, to the lace and high waists of the 1900s, the long silk trains of the 1930s, and finally the hourglass silhouettes of the 1950s. Of the over seventy wedding gowns in the Museum’s collection, the selection shown in this exhibition includes the 1880 dress worn at the wedding of early Pasadena settlers Jennie Hollingsworth and Joshua Giddings. Other highlights include the 1901 gown of the niece of Governor Henry Harrison Markham and several intricately beaded knee-length wedding dresses favored in the 1920s. Formal portraits, engagement and wedding announcements, guest books, and other ephemera accompany the gowns.
Wedding photos also provide a glimpse into the lives of local residents. One vintage photo on view shows Dorothy Hooper on her wedding day at the old All Saints Episcopal Church on June 7, 1925. The veil she is wearing is made of Limerick lace, and had been worn by her English grandmother at her presentation to the court of Queen Victoria. Both Dorothy and her husband Kenneth Learned attended Pasadena public schools. Dorothy became a librarian at the Pasadena Public Library and Kenneth graduated from Caltech in 1922.
News clippings supply additional information on wedding trends of the day. Articles often list the people who attended the wedding as well as the food, music, and décor enjoyed by the guests. One clipping announces the golden wedding anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. Frank S. Williams. Mrs. Williams was the daughter of T. J. Lockhart, a member of Pasadena’s pioneering Indiana Colony. The family chose to celebrate the occasion in an unusual way. “In the reception line at the golden anniversary celebration Miss Virginia Steitz wore the wedding gown in which her grandmother was married 50 years ago, a beautiful satin brocaded dress with a long train.”
The practice of wearing a white dress on your wedding day is attributed to Queen Victoria. In 1840, the Queen chose to wear a white silk court dress rather than an elaborate and colorful gown. This trend prevails to this day, with royal as well as non-royal weddings. Exceptions to this rule are also on display, including the vintage look of a woman wearing her best suit on her wedding day in the 1940s.
In contrast to the simple suit worn by brides during the war years, we have a note in the collection records from Sally Stanton Rubsaman dated June 22, 1991. She describes her more elaborate white wedding gown, “Worn June 29, 1944 at my wedding at St. Marks Episcopal Church in Pasadena. Outfit included a hoop skirt and was purchased at J.W. Robinson's for $100 – a tidy sum, as my father thought, to be spent, rather frivolously in war time!” Mrs. Rubsaman also noted that she later loaned her wedding dress to one of her bridesmaids.
A beautiful red-brown moiré taffeta gown was donated by Ruth Hansen Weidner in 1982. The dress was worn by her mother Bertha Supnick Hansen. Mrs. Weidner provided the following information, “Bertha Supnick was born in Germany in 1897. She arrived in the U.S. at the age of 6, moving to Pasadena at the age of 14. Her husband, Andrew Hansen, was born in Denmark, immigrating to the U.S. at the age of 17. Bertha and Andrew were married on June 28, 1890 in her mother’s home on Madison Avenue (right next to the railroad tracks). The note also suggested that Bertha intended her wedding dress to be worn after her wedding, “… in other words to become a part of her regular wardrobe.” Mrs. Weidner also donated photographs of the steam laundry on the corner of Villa and Raymond, where her mother worked after her marriage.
Another example of a colorful wedding dress is Lottie Bell Mathewson Brigham’s 1859 gown. Her silk taffeta dress features horizontal woven stripes of alternating salmon and a bluish gray. The voluminous skirt once was finished with a bustle (now missing), which indicates the dress was updated at some point. Lottie’s son George Brigham, Jr. was an architect with the notable firm of Pasadena Marston, Van Pelt and Maybury.
Seeking a custom-made or designer dress for your wedding is also not a new concept. One of the dresses that will be in the exhibition is a reproduction of a bridal gown worn by Princess Marina at her marriage to Prince George, Duke of Kent in 1943. The net cap that accompanied the dress was crowned with orange blossom – a tradition also attributed to Queen Victoria – along with a veil falling half-way down the back.
The Museum’s Costume and Textile Collection contains approximately 3,000 pieces dating from 1880 to 1970, with the majority of the collection dating from 1880 to 1920. Most of the items have a Pasadena or San Gabriel Valley provenance. The costume collection is strong in the area of women’s formal wear and accessories including hats, parasols, and fans. There are separate collections of quilts, including late nineteenth century crazy quilts, and children’s clothing. Some noteworthy items in the collection include a Charles Frederick Worth gown, circa 1880; several
Rose Queen gowns from the Tournament of Roses; a Red Cross nurse’s uniform; and an aviator’s uniform from World War I.
I Do! I Do! Part I was curated by PMH Trustees Elizabeth Smalley, M.D. and Janet Kadin, as well as PMH volunteer Suzanne Ehrmann. Smalley and Ehrmann spent over two years preparing for the ehibition, reviewing, researching, and photographing over seventy gowns before selecting forty-two for display. The exhibition text and the section covering the Fenyes-Curtin-Paloheimo weddings were developed by Kadin. All three co-curators worked closely with staff to include photographs, ephemera, and objects from the Museum's collections.
Hours: 12:00 Noon to 5:00 pm Wednesdays through Sundays.
Admission: $7 General; $6 Students & Seniors; Members & Children under 12 Free.
Free admission every “Community Wednesday” to anyone who lives, works or is a student in any of the following local communities: Alhambra, Altadena, Arcadia, Bradbury, Duarte, Eagle Rock, El Sereno, Glendale, Highland Park, La Canada Flintridge, La Crescenta, Monrovia, Monterey Park, Pasadena, Rosemead, San Gabriel, San Marino, Sierra Madre, South Pasadena and Temple City. Please mention this offer and show some form of i.d. in the Museum Store.
Photos: Top - Adalbert and Eva Fenyes wedding portrait, Budapest, 1896. PHS16-1c.;
Middle - Gown from 1914 (foreground) on display in exhibit (Photo by Aaron Gil, www.fotonuova.com); Bottom -
(l to r) - PMH Volunteer Roberta Dumas works with exhibition co-curators Dr. Elizabeth Smalley and Suzanne Ehrmann to prepare the mannequins (Photo by Michelle Turner);