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!

Kxx


20 comments:

  1. Well, the word 'elegant' comes to mind, especially the going away outfit. I love the dress and remember my late mother wearing a shift dress with matching coat, edged with beading,that she made herself, for my eldest son's christening back in 1971. What a shame you can't keep them out on display, especially the wedding dress.. maybe you could find someone professional who would iron it for you? Good luck with the move, don't tire those packing fairies out!

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    1. Thanks Edwina. Your Mum sounds like a very swish dresser and very talented to do all that beading. I don't have a good track record with ironing but was wondering if a steamer would work just as well. Knowing my luck it would melt. Thanks for the best wishes re: moving. Hopefully it will be for a while. Xx

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  2. What treasures! I love finding out more about Scottish fashion history too

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    1. Yes, there was a surprising amount of "Scottish Fashion" what with all the wooden/cashmere mills and weaving. I don't know a lot but always try to find out a bit if I can. I am so in love with the fabrics from the last Scottish lace mill in Darvel. They make amazing things and have just collaborated with Timorous Beasties on some curtain panels. I definitely have my eye on those. Have you been to the costume exhibition at Kelvingrove yet? I will be checking it out soon. Xx

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  3. Wow! What gorgeous things! The wedding dress is beautiful (I must be coming down with something, it's the second one I've admired in a matter of days) and the Jean Allen ensemble is stunning. I've got a few Jean Allen pieces, I love her clothes. She designed until the mid-1970s. I'd say that two piece was early 1960s with the edge to edge jacket and slinky shape of the dress.
    Good luck with the move. Hope there's not too many tears. xxx

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    1. Thanks Vix. I think that there will be a few after me saying goodbye to everyone. I am getting a bit soppy in my old age. I have to say that you looked really stunning in that lovely Jean Varon bridal number. The ostrich (??) trim was fabulous and the dress fitted like a glove. Thanks for the info. I am hopeless at dating things. Still no ida what that fabric is though. Xx

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  4. What a gorgeous set. Love the details. Thank you for sharing it with us.

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    1. Thanks Kacy. It is much better in real life. The photos don't do the trim justice. It is so sparkly and so heavy. They really don't make it like that any more, well not for us mere mortals anyway. Xx

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  5. Oh my goodness, what a beautiful wedding dress and going away outfit, such amazing quality. I love the details, the pleating on the dress and the gorgeous trim on the Jean Allen suit. What lovely gifts, I can quite understand why you treasure them. The best way to get the creases out of the dress would be with a steamer; since I've used one at the charity shop, I would love one at home, so much easier than ironing and less risky for delicate fabrics.
    So the big move is upon you... Good luck! xxx

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    1. Thanks Curtise. I just bought one of those steam mop do-dahs and it has a hand-held attachment that comes off. I am going to try to revive my velvet stash with it as it has been folded instead of rolled (I know. I should be shot) and I will give it a go on this dress now too. They *were* very kind gifts. The lovely lady that gave them to me said could I cut them up and use the fabric for something?I love all the tapestries that I have too and cleaned them very carefully. I will post some photos too. Hope it is going well with the shop. Xx

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  6. how lovely! What a wonderful thing to have! I love the going away outfit, those beads! Good luck with the move:)

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    1. Thank you! Yes, it was a very special gift. The trims are fabulous and super-sparkly. I think it would have been a very glamorous outfit. Xx

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  7. Gorgeous dresses! I'm in love with the neckline on the Peggy Allen dress! Might have to steal that one.. :P I wish I could get married in something so gorgeous!

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    1. I know. The wedding dress is beautiful, very simple but very elegant. It is so small too. I woould have loved to see how it looked on. Xx

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  8. Wow, what beautiful things! How lovely to have them all as a set.

    Liz Tregenza (blogs over at Advantage in Vintage http://advantageinvintage.co.uk) might be able to help with dates and information; she's doing her PhD in fashion and the midcentury is her speciality. She'd probably be fascinated with your set.

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    1. Oh thanks Mim. I could just ask the lady that gave me it of course. :) I think doing a PhD in anion sounds like my kind of job. How wonderful. Thanks for the info, it's much appreciated, plus a new blog to read. Yay! Xx

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  9. I been struggling to blog recently too, perhaps we should just all hibernate until Spring! Still, if you'd done that we wouldn't have had this lovely post and stunning outfits to drool over. What an amazing gift, no wonder you treasure it so much xx

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  10. Thans Josie. Blogging can be really hard when life gets in the way. I am struggling now too. I am with you on the hibernation thing. Hope that you were not affected by the floods. The weather in the North East has been terrible. I really love this set especially since it has an Edinburgh connection. It was a very kind gift. Xx

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  11. Those are two beautiful garments! I especially liked the going away outfit with the beautiful trim. I can see what you mean about not daring to iron the wedding dress - it did look so fragile.....

    vronni60s.blogspot.com
    Veronica

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    1. Hi Veronica, thanks for commenting. I am in love with the trim too. You just don't get things like that on modern garments - well not ones that I could afford anyway. I love your blog, your charity shops finds are bargainous and that 70's velvet coat is absolutely gorgeous. You look fab in it. Xx

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