The Magnificent Georgian Wedding Dress, York Castle Museum

This exhibition showcases a treasure from York Castle Museum’s costume and textiles collection – a wedding dress from 1775.

Women’s dress in Georgian era, the day to day outfit of the skirt and jacket style were practical and tactful, recalling the working class woman. Women’s fashions followed classical ideals, and tightly laced corsets were temporarily abandoned in favor of a high-waisted, natural figure. This natural figure was emphasized by being able to see the body beneath the clothing. Visible breasts were part of this classical look, and some characterized the breasts in fashion as solely aesthetic and sexual.

In this period, fashionable women’s clothing styles were based on the Empire silhouette — dresses were closely fitted to the torso just under the bust, falling loosely below. Without the corset, chemise dresses displayed the long line of the body, as well as the curves of the female torso.

Petticoat
The gown has a matching petticoat and is made of silk taffeta and lace. The wide shape is achieved by using hoops made of a wicker or willow which are then covered with petticoats.

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The skirt is very wide and the petticoat is decorated with lace only at the front where it shows.

The style
The style is called a sack back gown (also sacque back) or ‘robe à la Française’.

The back
The gown fans out from the back of the neck in large pleats which form a train.

The dress is symmetrical at the back, showing a careful use of the fabric. This was a way wealthy people would show their status.

Lace
Lace was made completely by hand in the eighteenth century, just like every other part of this gown.

Silk flowers
The lace is decorated with silk flowers, matching the colours of the flowers woven into the silk of the dress.

Pockets

In the eighteenth century pockets were separate bags worn under a dress. Pockets are accessed through slits at the tops of the hips.

The front
The front of this dress has been altered, probably in the nineteenth century to use as fancy dress.

Stomacher
Originally the dress would not have fastened at the centre front. It would have been open at the front, and pinned to a stomacher, a triangle of fabric which covered the stays.

Restrictions
Fashions like this were deliberately restrictive. Impractical fashions showed that their wearers did not need to do physical work.

Georgian era
The Georgian era of British history is a period which takes its name from, and is normally defined as spanning the reigns of the first four Hanoverian kings of Great Britain who were all named George: George I, George II, George III and George IV.

The era covers the period from 1714 to 1830, with the sub-period of the Regency defined by the Regency of George IV as Prince of Wales during the illness of his father George III. The definition of the Georgian era is often extended to include the short reign of William IV, which ended with his death in 1837.

The last Hanoverian monarch of the Great Britain was William’s niece Queen Victoria, who is the namesake of the following historical era, the Victorian, which is usually defined as occurring from the start of her reign, when William died, and continuing until her death.