When I was young, the custom was that the bridal gown though worn but once would be cut down to make christening robes for the babies, so redeeming in part the frightening expense of the gown. Today, it seems that bridal gowns are for wedding days only, and then are put away, thrown away - or at best donated to a charity. Two hundred years ago the bridal gown, which was not necessarily white, but pale plue or grey, would have been worn until pregnancy, at least. Since Quaker marriages were simple affairs conducted without a minister, following discussion and agreement at the meeting house, our expectation is that Quaker wedding gowns would have been similarly simple. This Quaker bridal gown, having no frivolity of furbelows or lace is, however, very stylish and follows the fashionable cut of the day down to the pelerine or little shoulder cape. It was worn by Elizabeth Priestman of Newcastle (who did not attend Ackworth School) when she married on 27 November 1839 John Bright (who did). Little did she know on her special day how famous her husband would become, and that she would be dead of tuberculosis within two years. Their daughter, Helen, will be subject of a different story tomorrow.
The wedding gown is now in Platt Hall Museum, Manchester, which is home to a wonderful gallery of costume, unfortunately closed until 2010 while a new boiler and heating system is installed. Be sure to keep a watch for its reopening and go along to visit.