Volume 6, Number 3, 1997

Wedding gowns galore

Frances W. Mayhew, HR '63, '75M, associate professor of consumer studies at UD, didn't realize she was starting a collection when she organized an exhibit around an historic 1893 wedding gown donated to the University by Charlotte Halloran, AS '43.

Organizing that exhibit was no small task. To bring it to fruition, she sought funding, tracked down original wedding photos of all eight relatives who had worn the gown and collected the family's genealogy to describe the relationships as the gown passed among family members.

She assembled props, painted the department's mannequin and gave it a new curled, construction paper hair-do.

As she began to mount the exhibit, the gown itself rested on a draping form for several weeks in the humidified atmosphere of the collection workroom and, periodically, it was treated with a hand steamer to relax the wrinkles. Fabric breaks in the sleeves were reinforced by inserting support cloth behind them and hand-stitching the split cloth. Camouflaging the waistline to disguise many years of changing its size was accomplished by adding a broad satin ribbon where the bodice joined the skirt.

These and many other tasks kept Mayhew busy for months. An unexpected bonus from all this effort came when four more people, upon hearing about the exhibit, decided to donate their own historic wedding gowns to the University's collection. Mayhew, shown w ith them in the photo, describes them all as "wonderful."