State Historic Site
Rosa-Maye Kendrick Harmon's wedding table (Kendrick Collection, TESHS)
A Whole-House Exhibit at the Trail End State Historic Site
August 1996 - December 1996
(Kendrick & Hoff collections, TESHS)
WHITE, SYMBOLIZING YOUTH and purity, has become the accepted color for the American wedding dress. This trend began around the mid 1800s, but even as late as the turn of the twentieth century, many women still chose colored dresses in which to be married. It seemed, however, to be a matter of personal choice: Sheridan resident Annie Loucks, who wed Cameron Garbutt in 1889, was married in a rust brown silk suit with matching hat and purse; Ida Stevens, who married Sheridan county rancher George Nottingham in 1911, followed the popular fashion and was married in white; five years later, young Ethel Snively of Sheridan was married in a pale blue silk dress with a white shawl and cameo.
EULA KENDRICK'S BRIDAL COSTUME
When she married thirty-four-year-old John Benjamin Kendrick in Greeley, Colorado, in early January 1891, eighteen-year-old Eula Wulfjen wore a warm winter suit that later served as a traveling outfit on her honeymoon. The Greeley Tribune described the dress as follows: "The bride's costume was of mauve Henrietta, combined with velvet, trimmings of silver otter fur, hat and gloves to match, diamond ornaments."
Henrietta, by the way, was a fine yet sturdy woolen fabric often used to make women's dresses and gowns - particularly winter wedding gowns - in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. With its parallel diagonal ribbing, faint luster and extremely soft finish, Henrietta was rather expensive, making it a good choice for the bride who wished to make a subtle showing of her family's wealth.
THE NEXT GENERATION
When the Kendrick children got married, their nuptials were well-covered by the press in both Washington and Sheridan. At her 1927 wedding to Hubert Reilly Harmon, Rosa-Maye's dress was described in great detail:
The bride wore a gown of white bride's satin, simply made and draped at the front, where the drapery was held with a rhinestone ornament, and the ends of the drapery falling below the bottom of the skirt, lined with pale flesh color. A deep V in the front of the bodice, reaching to the waist, was filled in with Venetian rose point lace over pale flesh [netting], making a round neckline. A coronet of rose point lace was held at either side with orange blossoms. The lace, falling down each side from the coronet to the waist, was set into a tulle veil, which fell over the court train, and was finished at the bottom with a deep flounce of the same lace.
Two years later, when Clara Diana Cumming married Manville Kendrick, her dress was described in the papers as well:
The bride is wearing just the type of dress that is most becoming to her slender figure. It is ivory satin made with a fitted bodice and a straight, full skirt that is long on the sides. The V-neck has an ornament of seed pearls worn by Mrs. Cumming at her wedding. There is a court train of the satin and Brussels point-lace. And over this falls a veil of tulle arranged in soft folds about the head.
A court train such as those worn by Rosa-Maye and Diana extended about three feet behind the gown itself. Today, a gown's train is a part of the dress itself. A court train of the 1920s was a separate piece - attached at either the shoulder or the waist - descending down the back of the gown, underneath the veil.
RECYCLING THE SATIN
Unlike today, when most wedding dresses are packed away in the attic never to be worn again, brides used to wear their dresses over and over again for special – or even everyday – occasions. Eula Wulfjen Kendrick and Annie Loucks Garbutt, for example, were able to wear their dark-colored traveling suits on future train trips. Another bride, Big Horn Basin resident Cecilia Hennel Hendricks, wore her 1914 wedding dress to dinner on each of her wedding anniversaries – and congratulated herself every year that it still fit.
Rosa-Maye Kendrick was able to reuse her ivory satin wedding gown when she was presented to the King and Queen of England in a 1927 ceremony for "Embassy Ladies." In her book Intimate Letters From London, she described the reworking of the dress:
I took the court train of my wedding gown to a dressmaker, patronized by the American ladies of the Embassy, to have it shortened … then with dress, feathers and veil to the cleaners, I was ready. When my bouquet arrived, a gorgeous creation ... composed of deep lavender orchids, delicate blue Iris, long sprays of green fern tied with a flowing bow of white satin ribbon, I felt quite the bride again with the plain white satin dress, white feathers and wisp of veil.
Preparatory to the presentation, titled English ladies gave lessons in court etiquette "as a means of earning pin money." They charged their American customers six to twelve pounds for two or three lessons.