April 22, 2011
‘Here Come the Brides’ a look back
Century of bridal fashions featured in Historical Society fundraiser
Toni Gallagher was struck by how tiny the women were in Cortland’s past, as she pressed and gathered gowns for the Cortland County Historical Society’s latest fundraiser: “Here Come the Brides: 100 Years of Bridal Fashions.”
“We have girls who are tiny, tiny models,” said Gallagher, a trustee at the society and chairman of the committee organizing the event.
“The smallest dress we have is 18 inches (at the waist),” said Susan Eligh, a retired school teacher who will serve as an announcer at the show. “My husband’s neck is 18 inches!”
All are welcome to the 100 Years of Bridal Fashions show, set for 2 to 4 p.m. May 1 at the Center for the Arts of Homer, 72 S. Main St., Homer. Area women and families donated their wedding gowns for the effort and 39 dresses will be modeled, ranging from 1871 to 1990.
Tickets are available at the Cortland County Historical Society, 25 Homer Ave., Cortland, Sheridan’s and The Bling Store on Main Street, Cortland and Lily Lanetree in Homer, and at the door.
There will be a reception following the bridal show with a silent auction, Gallagher said. Seventeen models will be showing off the dresses and Eligh will provide an overview of gown history, including tidbits on bridal veils, garters, and even the significance of flowers.
In Victorian times, every flower had a meaning, said Eligh. Roses signified love, lavender stood for distrust, while baby’s breath was innocence.
“We did this 10 years ago,” Eligh said of the bridal show. “I am assuming the idea came from Diane Ames the last time we did it,” she said.
And that was on one of the hottest days of the year at the Homer Methodist Church, she said.
“After that first show, you wouldn’t believe the number of calls I got,” she said. Mothers would call up Eligh to make sure they had their flowers or veil right, so they wouldn’t jinx the couple.
“We have a lot more dresses than we did before,” she said. “We have one that was made in 1961 and it cost $18.34 in material purchased at Grants, a five and dime store. That was Jean Cadwallader’s,” she said.
“Many of the dresses that we are showing are not white,” said Eligh. “It was rare for a middle class woman to have a white dress.”
If they did, it would be with the express use of using it for something else and the women would dye the gown to use it again.
Gallagher said they have a World War II-era naval uniform dress from a woman who was a nurse in the military. That was Diane Ames’ mother. The 1871 gown, the oldest in the show, was worn by the granddaughter of one of the first settlers in Virgil, Eligh said.
Abial and Sally Brown traveled up the Tioughnioga, probably by raft, and settled in Messengerville. Their granddaughter, Eubrasia Brown, wore this gown in 1871 when she married Harmon Kinney, according to Eligh.
“The thing that is really neat about this is that dress is going to be modeled by her great, great, great granddaughter, Jamie Lynn DeLine,” said Eligh.
In fact, the DeLine family has three other dresses in the show which will be modeled by a granddaughter descendant.
A dress made from parachute material dates back to World War II, Eligh said. Paratroopers had to oversee the making and testing of their parachutes. One paratrooper had a bolt of nylon that wasn’t enough to make a parachute and sent it back to his bride-to-be. She and her mother used 12 yards to make the wedding dress, which was extremely difficult to sew because of the thread count.
“We are excited,” Gallagher said of the upcoming show. “It’s one of our major fundraising events.”
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