Wedding dress, slip, veil and bride record book

Contributed by: Brunswick Valley Historical Society

Wedding of Eunice Gray Mortimer and Oswald Edwin Douglas at the Mullumbimby Methodist Church on 26th April 1941. Eunice Mortimer was the first bride to wear the ensemble.
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Object information

Significance statement

The ensemble of wedding clothes and records are historically and socially significant objects held by the Brunswick Valley Historical Society.

The ensemble includes a wedding dress, slip and veil and was made with precious clothing coupons for the wedding of Eunice Gray Mortimer and Oswald Edwin Douglas during WW II. Close to 60 brides borrowed all or part of the ensemble including around 20 such wartime brides.

A miniature leather bound book accompanies the wedding clothes. Recorded inside are the names of the brides who borrowed the veil or the whole ensemble at their weddings.

The dress is a long-trained gown of magnolia satin and needlework lace with draped bodice and heart shaped neckline in the princess line style. The slip is made of satin crepe and also in the princess line style. The veil is cornely work on wide silk net - it has some fine mending. The little book made of burgundy coloured leather with gilt-edged pages, records that the veil was bought at Snows, Sydney, in January 1941.

The book documents the entire borrowing records of the ensemble from the wedding of Eunice Gray Mortimer through almost 60 brides to the last wedding held in Mullumbimby Methodist church in May 1956.

Exceptionally well provenanced, the outfit and book have remained in the Mortimer family until its donation to the BVHS in 2002. It was held by Eunice Douglas and shipped to Mullumbimby or elsewhere as required.

A wedding photograph of Eunice Mortimer and Oswald Douglas records the first time it was worn on the 26th April 1941. A newspaper article appears in the Mullumbimby Star and Byron Bay Advocate on Friday 6th May 1941 which documents this wedding and has a description of the outfit.

The ensemble was attained during austere times in country New South Wales when rationing was in full swing and the loan of this ensemble to local brides enabled them to comply with the social protocols that the community held in high esteem.

This exceptionally well provenanced ensemble is rare as an example of a wartime wedding dress and is an important representation of community resources shared during WWII and beyond.

Author: BVHS Committee, 9th September 2010.

Description

The dress is described in the records as being of satin, in fairly good condition with some fixing of a hook required. The slip has a side placket, press fasteners, is satin crepe, stitched with rayon thread. The veil is Cornelli work on very wide silk net. It has a few holes and some signs of mending. The little book records that it was bought at Snows, Sydney, in January 1941. Both dress and slip are of Princess line style, the dress with leg-o-mutton sleeves, lace back with train, and sweetheart neckline. Satin covered buttons and loops are used at the back. The six gore slip has a scalloped hemline and French seams. The record book of brides fits into a standard sized match box and provides a memorable roll call of many local families.

History and Provenance

Do you have any stories or community information associated with this?

This ensemble of wedding clothes and records originates in wartime Australia, specifically Mullumbimby for a wedding between Eunice Gray Mortimer and Oswald Edwin Douglas at the Methodist church on 26th April 1941. The Mortimer family first came to Mullumbimby in 1920 and were quick to immerse themselves in their church and community groups. It was perhaps part of this community consciousness that led Eunice to offer her wedding outfit to others. There were around 20 war-time brides some borrowing the veil, some the whole outfit. There was no discrimination in the churches for the weddings which took place in Mullumbimby Anglican, Roman Catholic and Presbyterian churches as well as these and other denominations in other towns including Lismore, Murwillumbah, Gunnedah and various places in Sydney. The last recorded wedding was in the Mulumbimby Methordist Church in May 1956.

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

The arrival of WW II marked a period of austerity for Mullumbimby. The government introduced rationing, price fixing and quotas at an early stage, which combined with a lack of staff and customers caused businesses many hassles. In late 1943 Mullumbimby's long running Marble Bar cafe closed, marking the seventh long established Mullumbimby business to close.

Whilst the government introduced subsidies to the dairy industry, haemorrhaging from the industry continued compensated somewhat by the growth in the banana industry. 1948 marked a huge shakeout in bananas due to a glut and returned soldier settlement grants. It took another 7 years to get to the next boom.

The referendum of mid 1948 rejected the Commonwealth Government's power to continue price fixing and, with the progressive ending of rationing and quotas on various commodities, market forces took over.

By early 1950 housing was still scarce despite the postwar boom generating the greatest building activity in Mullumbimby's history. The houses were necessarily 'cheap' because of the still current restrictions on the type of construction due to the lingering shortage of building materials.

Mullumbimby was a conservative society and wedding protocols were observed thus the pressure to dress appropriately would have been considerable. Ceremonies provided relief in the hard times and being able to share a wedding outfit or part thereof alleviated some of the cost of the ritual. During this period as coupons were necessary to obtain clothing, a wedding outfit would have put considerable strain on the precious coupons available to a family.

Where did this information come from?

"Aunty's little book" by Audrey Eldridge. Story in Richmond Tweed Family History Society Inc. Issue No. 65 September 2000, p 1270. Audrey Eldridge was a niece of Eunice Mortimer.

This garment has been exhibited

The wedding ensemble has been exhibited at the Brunswick Valley Historical Society Museum as the centre piece for a display of bridal attire and wedding protocols.

The ensemble is on loan to Museums and Galleries NSW at the present time and is part of a travelling exhibition entitled "There's a War On".

  1. Place of origin:

    Mullumbimby, New South Wales, Australia

  2. Cost:

    The wedding ensemble was made at a time when rationing was in full swing and as has been recorded by a Mortimer family member "weddings put a great strain on the clothing coupons available".

  3. Owned by:

    Eunice Gray Mortimer and Oswald Edwin Douglas.

  4. Worn by:

    Eunice Gray Mortimer and close to 60 local brides who used some of all of the ensemble.

  5. Occasion(s):

    Weddings

  6. Place:

    Mullumbimby, Lismore, Murwillumbah, Gunnedah and various places in Sydney.

  7. Designed by:

    Mortimer family

  8. Made by:

    Mortimer family

  9. Made for:

    Wedding of Eunice Gray Mortimer to Oswald Edwin Douglas.

Trimmings / Decoration

Lace

Lace back of dress and train

Embroidery

Cornelli embroidery on veil

Fibre / Weave

Creme satin dress front and bodice. Creme lace dress back with lace train.

Creme crepe satin slip.

Creme wide silk net veil with cornelli work

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye

Manufacture

Rayon thread used on slip. Slip has scalloped hemline and french seams.

Cornelli embroidery used on veil.

  1. Hand sewn
  2. Machine sewn
  3. Knitted
  4. Other

Cut

Princess line dress with leg-o-mutton sleeves, sweetheat neckline and lace back with train.

Six gore princess line slip has a scalloped hemline and french seams.

Wide silk net used for veil.

  1. Bias
  2. Straight

Fastenings

Hook and eye on dress

Satin covered buttons and satin loops on back of dress.

Press fasteners used on side of slip

  1. Hook and eye
  2. Lacing
  3. Buttons
  4. Zip
  5. Drawstring

Additional material

Articles, publications, diagrams and receipts descriptions

"Aunty's little book" by Audrey Eldridge. Story in Richmond Tweed Family History Society Inc. Issue No. 65 September 2000, p 1270.

Other related objects

A miniature leather bound book recording the names of close to 60 local brides who all used some or all of the ensemble

Condition

Evidence of repairs

Hook and eye on dress needs repair.

Some holes in veil and evidence of mending.

State

  1. Excellent
  2. Good
  3. Fair
  4. Poor

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