[A century of weddings]

A century of Fovant weddings.


Although my primary interest here was in researching the changing fashion of Fovant bridal dresses over the century, I was also struck by what might be called the dynastic sequence of some families who lived, worked, married and brought up their families in the village.

Any presentation of change in fashion should logically follow a chronological order. However, a problem arises in that a dynastic sequence in descending order for one family automatically ignores the chronological requirements of the rest of the page.

So what follows is something of a ‘mix-and-match’. I hope you can follow it – please click on the thumbnail pictures to see more details of the dresses …

The Mullins generations.

[Mr & Mrs W Mullins]
Mr & Mrs W Mullins and party.
[Mr & Mrs G Mullins]
Mr & Mrs G Mullins.
[Mr & Mrs J Mullins]
Mr & Mrs J Mullins and party.

Hester Elizabeth Flora Perrett to Walter Mullins – 18th May 1907.

Seated L - R. Mrs Mullins, Walter, Hester, Hester’s mother (?), Mr. Mullins. Hester’s father, Edwin Perrett, had been the licensee of the Cross Keys, a position taken over by Walter Mullins.

Hester’s dress, typical of the time and occasion, was relatively full skirted, had a high neckline and sleeves which were not only puffed at the shoulder but cuffed halfway up her arms. Her lower arms would not have been bare, so she is either wearing long gloves or the sleeves were further extended. Her hat is a positive confection of decoration – lace, feathers, ribbon or a combination of all of them. As well as wearing a corsage of flowers she is also wearing a locket – maybe a family heirloom, or perhaps a gift from the groom. Hester, aged twenty-eight in 1907, was obviously a very fashionable young lady.

Hester Simper to Gilbert Mullins – 1930

Being of the same period Hester’s outfit has many of the same features as Ivy Grant’s (whose picture is at the end of the page). The dress is long waisted, mid-calf in length and has long cuffed sleeves. The cloche hat is almost identical, as are the shoes and stockings. There are however some differences. Hester’s dress is cut on the bias, has a decorative pattern reaching from mid skirt up to a low, but infilled neckline, and has no visible way of getting in to it.

Dark colour tones suggest a winter wedding

Peggy Helstone to Jim Mullins – 1946

L - R. Edward Mullins, Mabel Mullins, Bridesmaid (a friend), Best Man, Jim, Peggy, Bridesmaid (another friend), Peggy’s stepfather Jack Leaney and Peggy’s mother. The children are Hazel, Theresa and Margaret Leaney, Peggy’s half sisters.

The war had only recently ended and clothes rationing was still in force, but everyone would have rallied round to ensure that the bride had a lovely wedding dress. Little can be seen of Peggy’s dress, but you can see that it was full length and that she had quite a long veil. I understand it was borrowed from one of her friends – perhaps one of her Bridesmaids.

The Lever sisters.

[Mr & Mrs T Burton]
Mr & Mrs T Burton and party.
[Mr & Mrs L King ]
Mr & Mrs L King and party.
[Mr & Mrs W Lord]
Mr & Mrs W Lord and party.

Helen Kate Lever to Tom Burton – late 1920s?

Little can be seen of the bride’s dress except that it is not quite full length. Her cloche style veil comes well down around her head and appears to be heavily decorated across the front. The bridesmaids low headbands, mid calf dresses, white stocking and shoes are typical of the period.

Hilda Lever to Les King – mid 1930s?

Hilda may have chosen her wedding outfit for practical reason for she seems to be wearing an outdoor coat over a dress. All that can be seen of the dress is that it has some decoration below the neckline. The coat has large reveres and an almost shawl collar. The slightly brimmed cloche style hat, probably of felt, has a decoration to one side.

Bessie Louise Lever to Wilfred Lord – late 30s?

Although Bessie has a very large bouquet it doesn’t completely obscure her dress. Mid calf in length and shaped into the waist, it has a scooped neckline which appears to be edged with some form of decoration and below which a bead necklace hangs. A light weight, full crowned, wide-brimmed, hat sits well down on her brow.

The Simper generations.

[Mr & Mrs D Kerley]
Mr & Mrs D Kerley and party.
[Mr & Mrs R Simper]
Mr & Mrs R Simper.
[Mr & Mrs G Barnes]
Mr & Mrs G Barnes.
[Mr & Mrs I Simper]
Mr & Mrs I Simper.

Pat Simper to Dennis Kerley – early 1950s.

Pat told me that her dress had narrow shoulder straps over which was a long sleeved bolero. You can just see what is probably the edge of this bolero, below which the bodice seems to be shaped into the waist. A flowered head dress holds what appears to be a relatively long veil in place.

This wedding took place while clothes rationing was still in force. Pat has explained how she was able to ‘spare’ the clothing coupons enabling her to have a traditional wedding dress.

Mary Grant to Roy Simper – 1954

The bodice of Mary’s dress has a Peter Pan collar and a series of small covered buttons reaching down to what looks like a pointed waistline. The fullness of the skirt as it falls in folds to the hemline suggests the possibility of a train. Sleeves, probably padded on the shoulder, end in a deep, many-buttoned cuff, which is pointed over the back of the hand. The plain veil is not quite full length.

Lesley Simper to Graham Barnes – 1975

Lesley’s white crimplene dress, which cost 11, was made by her mother, Mary. It is Empire line in style, shaped to the bust and then falling straight down without further shaping. The vee neckline and bell shaped sleeve cuffs were edged with white swansdown. Lesley’s white platform sandals can just be seen at the hemline. A full length veil, used in turn by successive members of the family, trails the ground behind.

Rosalind Fanner to Ian Simper – 1990

Rosalind’s dress takes you straight back to the 1920s Flapper era, but perhaps it’s just the effect of the pearls and flower headband. Her dress appears relatively simple, but in fact the square shoulders top a bodice panel which reaches to a point at the waist. A plain sleeveless under dress is covered by a lacy, sleeved version. The satin covered silver shoes are revealed by the ankle length hem.

The Harte generations.

[Mr & Mrs G Harte]
Mr & Mrs G Harte.
[Mr & Mrs N Mundy]
Mr & Mrs N Mundy.
[Mr & Mrs R Hall]
Mr & Mrs R Hall and party.

Betty Austin to George Harte – 1946

Wartime clothes rationing remained in force until 1949 so Betty’s choice of wedding attire would have been restricted by what clothing coupons she could spare. Additionally the Clothing Control Order of 1941 allowed only utility of function in design, which meant no frills, pleats or cuffs – hence the simplicity of Betty’s wedding dress. The pale blue, long sleeved, dress has a large navy blue bow at the collar and a matching, wide, navy-blue belt above a fairly narrow skirt. Her pale blue hat (felt?), sitting well back on her head, has a short face veil and (lace?) trimmings. Gun metal grey shoes, bag and gloves complete a typical ‘austerity’ wedding outfit.

Alison Harte to Nigel Mundy – 1976

Made of a white silk Alison’s dress is of the classic Empire style. A wide scooped neckline, back and front, is edged with an inch wide flower-motif lace. From this lace a double-frilled yoke hides the top of narrow sleeves which, at the cuff end, repeats the double frill and lace edging. The skirt has a relatively narrow straight front panel, while at the back much wider panels are gathered into the high waistline, and then sweep down to a large train. This train, like the complete hemline, ends in a deep double frill, above which the lace motif is repeated. The voluminous, circular, plain veil is also edged with matching lace.

Jackie Harte to Rob Hall – 2006

Over a deep pink under dress, Jackie’s wedding dress is an exuberant riot of multicoloured organza. Virtually strapless, minimally shaped at the bust line, six straight panels (3 front, 3 back) fall right down to the hemline. At about hip level each of these panels is separated by seven inverted V shaped inserts, which are so wide at the hem line as to make the skirt circular. Unlike most wedding dresses which are only worn once, this dress, made in Italy, can be worn for any future social occasion – indeed I believe it already has been.

The Mundy generations.

[Mr & Mrs R Mundy]
Mr & Mrs R Mundy and party.
[Mr & Mrs F Gaunt]
Mr & Mrs F Gaunt.

Mabel Foyle to Reginald Mundy

This date is also unknown but again the wedding guests’ outfits provide clues. Despite the long skirts of the two older seated ladies, the lack of hats amongst both men and women indicates a later date than the previous wedding. Such informality in the early 19th century would have been unthinkable, so I hazard a guess that this wedding took place in the 1930s.

Mabel’s dress is also difficult to see. The most one can say about it is that it has a relatively deep, round, neckline and long sleeves. One innovation lies in the rather floppy, wide brimmed, hat and lack of a traditional veil.

Joan Mundy to Frank Gaunt – 1945

Joan’s long sleeved silk dress has a v-shaped neckline at the point of which a series of small, cloth covered, buttons descend to the waist line. A very full gathered skirt, which has a long train, falls in graceful folds to the hemline. The long length veil is held in place by a tiara decorated with pearls and artificial flowers.

The Coombes generations.

[Mr & Mrs T Coombes]
Mr & Mrs T Coombes.
[Mr & Mrs B Lee]
Mr & Mrs B Lee.
[Mr & Mrs J Roberts]
Mr & Mrs J Roberts.
[Mr & Mrs S Haskell]
Mr & Mrs S Haskell.

Eva Norman to Tom Coombes – 1928

Eva’s dress has a deep scooped neckline, a large yoke, which may have some decoration on it, a generally unshaped bodice and sleeves which increase in fullness down to a cuff. The mid calf, tiered skirt, curves into a low waistline. White stockings are worn with white, low-heeled Mary Jane type buttoned shoes. The head dress, worn low over the brow echoing the cloche hat that every woman was wearing at this time, has an intricate beaded decoration. Eve's outfit is typical of 1920s wedding fashion.

Mary Coombes to Bryan Lee – 1955

Mary’s dress, made by a relative, is of a white patterned brocade. The bodice, buttoned at the back, is shaped into the waist. Small, high reveres lead to a minimal stand up collar. Long, relatively full sleeves end in a point over the back of the hand. (a fashion that occurs over and over again) The skirt is gathered into the waist, and although it doesn’t have a train, is fuller at the back than at the front. White strappy sandals, which can just be seen peeping from the skirt, and a full length veil attached to a coronet style headdress, complete the outfit.

Sandra Lee to John Roberts – 1976

Sandra’s cream silk dress, which she made herself, is in the style of the Empire line. (a style first seen during the Regency period which seem to have enjoyed something of a comeback for 1970s wedding dresses) It has a low scooped neckline and is shaped closely to the bust, before the full skirt, which has a long train, falls straight to the ground. Very full long sleeves end in a deep, buttoned cuff. The plain veil, held in place by a headband, appears to be of waist length.

Casey Roberts to Steve Haskell – 2005

Casey’s dress, of Duchesse satin, is ‘A line’ in style in that it is narrower at the top then flares gently wider towards the hem. The skirt being fuller at the back extends into a small train. The strapless bodice, closely fitted to the waist, is ‘laced up at the back’. (I’m not quite sure what this means – see Casey for an explanation). A long, plain veil is held in position by a small tiara.

Why white dresses?

White has long been accepted as the traditional colour of the wedding dress, but this was not always so. Queen Victoria set the fashion for marrying in white when she married Prince Albert in 1840. Subsequently, although brides continued to marry in colours, white became the colour of choice by many brides, and has continued so ever since. Queen Victoria was also the first royal bride to have bridesmaids to carry her train – which also set a fashion.

Practical reasons for choosing colour rather than white for the wedding dress figured largely for ordinary people, many of whom could not afford to spend money on clothes that were only suitable for a single occasion. Clothes kept for ‘Sunday best’ would be spruced up, or garments which could be of use after the celebration would be purchased.

As the century progressed with tastes changing and money becoming more readily available for spending on fashionable clothes, wedding dresses also changed, as can be seen in the photographs below:

[Mr & Mrs W Goodfellow]
Mr & Mrs W Goodfellow.
[Mr & Mrs W Grant]
Mr & Mrs W Grant.
[Sue Bond]
Sue Bond.

William Goodfellow to Flora (née ?) – 1890s (?)

I think economics would have figured largely in the choice of Flora’s outfit. The full length skirt of a heavy, dark, material would have stood her in good stead as Sunday-best for many years to come. The blouse, known as a ‘waist’ at that time, though of a light colour suitable for the occasion, is also of a serviceable style.

Ivy (née Way) to Bill Grant – 1929

Although Ivy’s dress has a dropped belt line it looks as though it is ‘waisted’ in a natural position. It is decoratively buttoned from the waist to a small stand up collar and has full, slightly cuffed, long sleeves. The mid calf length follows the height of the 20s/30s fashion, as do the light weight brimmed cloche hat, pale stockings and ankle strapped shoes.

Since all the colour tones are light I would guess that this was a summer wedding.

Sue Bond to Robin Saunby – 1963

Sue’s dress, of white brocade, was of the ‘Princess’ style with a closely fitting bodice which then swept straight out and down into a full length skirt with a small train. It had a boat-shaped scooped neckline and long un-cuffed sleeves which came to a point on the hand. A small ‘crown’ kept the waist length veil in place.

October 2008

Content last updated
2 May 2012

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