Sunday, 15 November 2015

1940's Couture Wedding Dress from Greensmith Downes, Edinburgh.

Bloody Hell! Talk about best laid plans! I have been the living embodiment of "gang aft agley" the past few weeks.  Sorry not for posting for a bit. I am mid-move so everything is up in the air (or in a box). So with all my machines out of action I would like to show you a bridal set that is probably the jewel of my vintage stash. I think that it really is museum worthy. It is an original late 1940's couture wedding dress, designed and made at the top Edinburgh department store, Greensmith Downes.

Dress tied at the back. Such a beautiful shape!

Please forgive the crinkles on this dress. It has been in the box a long time and I am too scared of damaging it to give it an iron. It is made of ivory heavy silk satin and the fabric is so fresh it could have been made yesterday. Whoever made this really knew what they were doing as the hip pleats add some volume to balance the busty shape. The sleeves are shaped at the bottom into peaks and have high sleeve caps and shoulder pads. Actually I don't know the actual date of the wedding this was made for but the dress looks more mid-1930's to me in shape and style details. The lady who wore this was in her late 90's when I got this and that was about 5 years ago so any help dating it from all you vintage experts would be very welcome. This dress was sewn bespoke for the original owner. It was too small for my dress form which is about a modern size 8. You would really need period style undergarments to wear this one.

The going away outfit was also purchased from Greensmith Downes and comprises a "Peggy Allen by Jean Allen" ivory jewel-trimmed shift dress and jacket. I have no idea what kind of fabric this outfit is made from. It looks like a kind of gauze but has a stiff hand. It is almost see through and is lined in a similar but more lightweight material. There is a close-up below. Any ideas? The Jean Allen brand is most famous from the 1950's but I have found 1940's examples with the "Peggy Allen" label.

 The outfit is finished off with a matching  "Jane Shilton"handbag. There are a couple of bits of the trim inside and I don't know if they are for repairs or instead of dress clips for another dress. The bag is immaculate inside and out. Actually the "Jane Shilton" moniker is a bit of a 1940's clue as they were "Alexander Shilton" until he returned from WWII and married his secretary, Jane.

The whole set comes in its original box in which it was stored directly after the wedding and was never worn again. The box stayed unopened until I was gifted this by the son and daughter-in-law of the lady this was made for. It was a wonderful and exceptional gift.

They were also very kind and gave me some of their great-grandmothers tapestries and embroideries including a finished but not made up bag from the Victorian era but I will post about them another day.

I couldn't find a huge amount of information online but Greensmith Downes was at one time THE best department store in Edinburgh, even posher than Jenner's. I asked my Mum, who is in her mid 80's, and she remembers it but wasn't ever in it as she said that it was too posh for people like her and that her family would have never have been able to afford to shop there. It was located at 133-143 George Street, a glorious Georgian street that runs parallel to Princes Street in Edinburgh. I think that it closed down in the 1960's.

Anyway I hope that you enjoyed my rubbish phone pics, bit of Scottish fashion history and crumpled clothing.  I will be finished moving in 2 directions at once in the next week or so, dividing my time between Birmingham and Glasgow from about the end of the month (le sigh). The saddest thing is that I will be packing up my studio in Newcastle. I have had such a good time there and met so many wonderful, talented people. There will be tears.

Bye for now. The packing fairies and I are sending you all best wishes!