Wedding Fashion Trends 1905-1906

Acquiring data for this project was tough. My data was qualitative, not quantitative, so I couldn’t just find charts with what I needed and call it a day. Initially, I wanted to look at fashion trends and how they evolved within the 2 year period. However, as mentioned before, finding the data was difficult. Whenever I looked up ‘fashion’, it would refer me to a hotel ad. Back then, they used different terms to describe fashion. I had to come up with a way to find them. Eventually, I looked up ‘dress’ and found some wedding articles, so I decided to stick with that since the category of wedding dresses would be more consistent and a better way to compare clothing than normal streetwear.

To collect my data, I looked up the word ‘wedding’ within headlines, took all the articles, and copied and pasted them into a different document. I did the same with ‘marriage’, and within that document, I looked up the words ‘dress’ and ‘gown’. I would read the words around whatever came up, and created a spreadsheet of details I found on the dresses. Then I had to look up the article in the content repository again so I could get the date. I had to do this because simply looking up ‘dress’ would have gotten me a lot of articles I didn’t need, and just copying and pasting the results would only get me the 7 words around it, which was way too little information to work with. I logged in details of who wore the dress, who made it, what color it was, material, trim, bouquets, and more. Then I created a chart with as many of these details as I could find. Some of the data I collected was not reported with the other dresses (like with the creator of the dress, or with the bouquet), so these results could not be graphed. Obviously, this research relies entirely on how the newspaper reporter describes the dresses, the reporter could call something ‘pale blue’, when in reality, it could be ‘periwinkle’, or something like that. Most of the dresses are white, as expected, but some are referred to as ‘cream’, or ‘ivory’. I kept those as different colors because I wanted to see if different shades came into fashion at some point, or maybe there was a significance within the shades depending on class. I thought it was an important difference.

Through this project I aim to analyze the trends of Egyptian wedding dresses from 1905-1906 (I could not find any articles in 1907) to see what colors, materials, decorations, etc. get used and what trends get repeated, and if there is any change due to season (I’m thinking specifically with the flowers used). I’m hoping to find things that aren’t typically seen with American wedding dresses, and I want to look at what certain things such as material or color says about a bride. In the article Late-Nineteenth-Century Ottoman Wedding Costumes as Indicators of Social Change by Nancy Micklewright, she describes how certain things about a bride affect what the dress looks like “Her choice would have been determined by her religion, her social status (which in turn involved her family and its financial standing), and her education” (Micklewright 1). If these aspects are mentioned in the article, hopefully there is a correlation between the choice of dress and the features mentioned above. I feel like material will definitely be influenced by social standing.

Here is a graph of what colors I found to be used and who wears them:

As said before, most of the colors were white. Wedding dresses are traditionally white, so this is no surprise. There was not a lot of variation within the bridal dresses in terms of color- ivory, silver, white, and crème. There is not a correlation between dates or seasons for these color variations. Additionally, there does not seem to be a difference in the kinds of people who wore this color (there are no descriptions of what kind of position these couples hold in society… one is married to a well-known contractor and that’s it. There’s a wedding of a princess described, and she wears white).

Here is the graph that depicts the materials used in wedding dresses:

Satin was the most frequently used and most consistent material. It appears to be used throughout the two years steadily. One dress uses ‘blonde lace’. This couple got married in London, in the same church that the king and queen of England had attended to view the wedding of Lady Alexandra Acheson’s marriage with the Earl of Derby’s son. The groom was the Captain of the Egyptian Army. Blonde lace appears to signify a very expensive dress. This was a bridesmaids’ dress, and from the article we can see it was very worked up. “charming gowns of white blonde lace on soft white satin, the bottom of the skirts trimmed with Empire wreaths of pink chiffon roses, set in by garlands of blue ribbon… trimmed at the back with little rosettes and short folded ends. A butterfly bow of lace… small green foliage falling at each side. The elbow sleeves were in two, divided by a bracelet of blue ribbon and a single pink rose…”. In 1840, a woman named Angeline Faran wore a dress of blonde lace in Cincinnati, Ohio. She wore this dress 45 days after Queen got married in one similar that brought the style of “simplicity enhanced with lace” (Thieme 2) to the forefront of the fashion world.

A trend I noticed was the frequency of orange blossoms involved in the wedding dresses, trims, veils, and bouquets. This flower only appears in the dresses made in 1906. The blossoms could be used around the bottom, or as a flower crown/diadem under the veil. I tried to pinpoint it to a specific season, but it seems to just occur throughout all of 1906. I only have dresses from April and September, too, so with more data, maybe this could be evaluated more. I know someone in our class is doing something about flowers, so maybe this project and hers will be able to be connected to offer a more complete explanation for the frequent use of orange blossoms.

Something I really wanted to investigate was the origin of these dresses. Only three of the dresses had a labeled identification of how it was made, which was slightly disappointing. If I had gotten more data on where the dresses were created, I think it would have been really cool to map out the origins of the designers and see what cultures influences Egyptian wedding fashion at the time. I know a lot of cultures were involved with Egypt at the time, primarily Britain, so making a map of these origins would have shown how far each influence was. Of the three origins mentioned, two were described to be tailored (one ‘plain tailored’), and they were both going away dresses. These dresses were worn when the bride leaves the reception or after event of the wedding. The only wedding dress was described as being made by “venture of Milan”. This dress belongs to a ‘Miss Nangovich’, and is described in greater detail than the others. Orange blossoms appear not once but three times- on the skirt/train, the bodice, and the veil. Because her dress is described in so much detail, this leads me to believe that she was pretty important. This makes me wonder if the orange blossoms were an indicator of status, but the other dresses were not described in as much detail.

As with any topic, digitizing microhistory makes research a lot easier- if one knows how to properly do it. as mentioned before, finding my data was tough and I had to think of different ways across different platforms to collect it. My main issue was the fact that I was searching within a certain type of article (wedding/marriage) that had no consistent way of being labelled, so I had to copy and paste each article that I wanted to search into a different document, and then look for my data.

This erased the dates of the articles, so I had to go back and find them. This is mostly at the fault of the Egyptian Gazette writers, since weddings were not consistently reported on, not the program itself, but it still would have saved me a lot of time and stress if I had a way to search within. That being said, it was definitely a lot better than having to find the Egyptian gazette scans and go through them one by one to find data on weddings. Digitizing the gazette will help research tremendously, as there is a lot of information in there, and newspapers are the most accurate way to get glimpses into the daily lives of citizens, plus they cover very broad topics. I could have done my project on anything due to how many things are talked about in this gazette. If I had to use another source, such as Google or an academic database, it would have been nearly impossible. Even though there was not a lot of data to work with in the two years, I still feel like I was able to pull out a lot of information to analyze. Without the Digital Egyptian Gazette, I could not have gone as in-depth.


Sonali Pustam
Sonali Pustam

The author, a student at Florida State University, was enrolled in the digital microhistory lab in spring 2018.