Wedding Dresses of the north
MDOs Ewen McPhee and Jo Wills recently visited Cardwell to update their Disaster Plan and start planning for their Anzac Centenary Exhibition – Re-Honouring Cardwell.
In between visits, the historical society members, led by Stephanie Berger, developed and opened a new exhibition featuring wedding dresses and accouterments over time. Stephanie, who is a well known dressmaker in north Queensland has also been actively involved in leading the 150 year celebrations for Cardwell and the Cassowary Coast Region through the making of period costumes.
The wedding dresses on display at the Cardwell Museum range from the years of 1892, 1915, 1927, 1947, 1948, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s.
wedding dress display – note the photographers skill of also getting in the reflection of the sea
Stephanie recounts her history as a dressmaker
“dressmaking stems from my early childhood and of necessity my Mother taught me all kinds of sewing as we literally made everything for ourselves…..when my cousin and I were off to St Patricks College in Townsville as boarders Mum was laid up in bed with a very bad back so we made all our clothes for school including bras, panties uniforms, day dresses, pyjamas, detached collars and cuffs … the only things Mum bought at Carrolls in Townsville were Blazer, Uniform Hats, gloves, stockings, and ties. It was a very good grounding as you can imagine… all sewn on a treadle machine.. and you sewed carefully because Mum made us unpick if we did it wrong!! That was the start of a long association with dressmaking and both my sister and my Deb and Wedding dresses , bridesmaids, flowergirls etc were all home made. After moving to Ingham when Harry, my husband was posted to the Hinchinbrook Shire Council, I continued making all of our clothes and of course that led to making Ball dresses, Deb Dresses and Wedding ensembles, & children’s dancing costumes for many friends and people in the area, as well as school uniforms for all 3 schools, both primary and secondary…As a matter of fact I was very close to starting a business in making readymade school uniforms for sale in my own shop… It wasn’t till later that readymade uniforms became available to buy. Even after I went into my own business of Interior Decorating, I still was involved in making in making Deb, Wedding dress and bridesmaids ensembles for my own children and their friends. I still absolutely love the intricate work and styling involved with that more lavish dressmaking. For the ball gown I recently sewed for the C150 Gala Costume Ball as part of the Fabric of Time project, I loved the creation of a costume from the simple use of a pattern and lengths of beautiful fabrics and the skill of putting it all together… like magic!!”
Dresses in the exhibition include the Hubinger dress from 1892, which is a quite simple skirt and blouse as was the fashion of the time. The dress from 1915 is a much more detailed dress with definite French styling in lace and figured crepe. The Hubinger dress from 1927 has been in the Museum since before Cyclone Yasi and was painstakingly salvaged and cared for.
The most gorgeous dress in the whole collection in Stephanie’s opinion is the 1947 dress featuring a long train with inserted bands of lace in the skirt, and the bride of 92 yrs told us that the dress cost 100 pounds when it was made in Brisbane.
The 1948 dress is lace. Rations after the war meant that lace didn’t require any coupons where other fabrics did. The dress from the 1950’s is a mini in all over guipere lace, quite tailored and worn with a short veil. As the following years showed the fabrics changed and the dresses became more ornate and the later years all featured beading.
For those who are interested in other wedding dress displays, have a look at the Victoria and Albert Museum’s exhibition here.