By: Vickie Brady
Several people asked to see the dress after Caroline’s splendid introduction for Martin’s presentation at the March DAR meeting so I will oblige. The original dress was made in Scotland in 1750 and worn for a wedding. It became a tradition that every bride in that family wore the dress – the last I’m aware of was in 2003. The dress was then placed in a museum in Inverness.
Most of my family was from Scotland so once I happened upon a photo of the dress I knew I wanted to wear a copy of it in my wedding. I emailed the curator, introduced myself, and told her I wanted to reproduce the dress for our wedding. Surprisingly, she remembered my textile archival work at Dunollie (Oban, Scotland) and was kind enough to send additional photos and a few handwritten notes about its construction.
We spent considerable time looking for similar wool and finally found an almost perfect match at Needle & Thread in Gettysburg, PA. It was rather pricey and probably because I had pre-wedding jitters, the more I thought about it the more I stressed out about cutting and fitting the dress. Martin stepped up and offered to make it. Problem solved. He made the dress, and I made the petticoat and all the underpinnings and accessories while also planning the wedding.
The dress is a mid-18th century open-robe style in 100% wool plaid lined in cotton. The petticoat is white linen [later also worn with navy linen) and has since been embroidered. The scarf is attached with a reproduction brooch as was the original. If you’re going to dress the part then go all out.
I researched 18th century weddings and set everything up in the block-house at the living history site where we met as volunteers. We had the wedding during their annual Scottish Heritage Days weekend so friends in attendance were also in Highlander clothing. Our cake was the traditional 18th century fruit cake. Don’t think of bricks of candied fruit seen at Christmas. I used nuts, raisins, dates, currants, figs, dried apricots, apples, and candied ginger, just as the bride wearing the original dress would have had in 1750. There was ham, cheese, rolls, shortbread, home-made pickles and relishes, fresh and dried fruit (sweetmeats), and other traditional period foods as well.
Tables were festooned in plaid ribbon and peacock feathers and I made my bouquet of paper roses, silk thistle and heather.
We did the customary hand-fasting where the bride and groom’s wrists are bound, or fasted, with a strip of tartan or ribbon. Only the gentry could afford a wedding ceremony so those of less affluent means improvised by taking a piece of tartan to the clan chief, or other high ranking official, and asking them to perform the hand-fast. This was considered a legal marriage. Some, however, chose it as a betrothal, lasting a year and a day after which they could remain as one (after another ceremony) or go their separate ways.
Just to make sure ours permanently “took” we also had a minister friend, in period attire, marry us nice and legal by 21st century standards!