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Sunday
May012011

The Bridal Trousseau

In the days that young girls were launched into society with the intention of catching a husband, a strict observance of rules governed the contents of their wardrobes. White and pink were the most popular colours for girls just out of the schoolroom; pearls were suitable – flashy colourful stones were not.

It follows that upon a young lady’s engagement a whole new wardrobe could be planned: her bridal trousseau. Safely married, she was able to wear more daring gowns and dashing colours, and her new station in life required that she should be suitably attired for every occasion.

upon a young lady’s engagement a whole new wardrobe could be planned

Trousseau comes from Old French, and is a diminutive of trousse – so ‘little bundle’ it is. Traditionally it included household linens as well as lingerie and clothing and other accessories for the new bride. The trousseau was stored in a ‘wedding chest’ – or ‘hope chest’ as it became later known – and the collection of these expensive items was begun many years earlier.

For the (presumably wealthy) Victorian lady, these would include ‘velvet dresses – with thousands of dollars worth of lace flounces to be looped over skirts; walking dresses; ball gowns; travelling dresses in differing fabrics; evening robes in Swiss Muslin; linen dresses for the garden and croquet; dresses for horse races and yacht races; dresses for dinner; dresses for receptions and parties…’ [Source: Lights and Shadows of New York by James McCabe, 1872. For more info click Reference at the end of the story.]

Don‘t forget the heart-flocked stockings!That was then… what of now? Most brides already own a houseful of linens, but undoubtedly they could find more room in their wardrobe for a few sundry pieces of frivolous lingerie – special things to wear on their wedding night; or for pretty dresses and shoes to wear on their honeymoon. And what better occasion to indulge in some beautiful clothes?

I remember the delightful time I had once assembling a wardrobe for a glorious summer holiday: I packed those silk party frocks and silver sandals so carefully! I did, however, leave room for shopping.

There is one new bride today who would be able to rival these expensive Victorian brides, but I suspect the contents of HRH The Duchess of Cambridge’s luggage would be less ostentatious, and a whole lot more modern and practical – yet ever elegant, as evidenced at her wedding.

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