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A nostalgic look at Iowa weddings


July 30, 2012
Billie Shelton , The Daily Freeman Journal

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. And a lucky sixpence in her shoe.

That could be a theme for the local museum display I toured in nearby Slater recently. "Getting Hitched" is about weddings in small town Iowa for the past hundred years or so. It was an informative, fun and nostalgic way to spend a few hours.

There were wedding dresses on dress forms throughout the room, starting with one from 1912. The first several dresses on display proved that white wasn't always the required color for a wedding dress. This century-old dress was ivory silk, some of it nearly in shreds from age. Our tour guide told us that the dress was so fragile that the volunteers took it out of its bag and carefully pinned it directly onto the dress form to show it off, where it will likely have to remain because it was so fragile.

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I learned that white hasn't always been the traditional color for wedding dresses. The wedding dress from 1916 was gray, and the 1919 dress was a lovely, soft green mint. There were two flapper style wedding dresses from the roaring twenties, one peach and one ivory.

And on the display went, with dresses from the simple, austere bridal gowns of the 1930s and '40s, when our country was surviving the Great Depression and then winning a war. Some weddings were hastily arranged then before the groom shipped out, and that was part of the display. Not only were these wedding gowns not always white, often they were more like dresses than gowns.

The display continued along through the decades of the 1900s, the wedding gowns all on loan from local families who shared not only their family heirlooms but also the memories and pictures that went with them. One ivory satin dress was worn in 1943 and then again by the bride's sister in 1950, for instance. A few flower girl dresses were on display, too, that continued on through the styles and customs of weddings n each decade of the 20th century.

A favorite feature of the exhibit for me was a serving table that was set up for what wedding receptions used to be in small town Iowa. Remember when that automatically meant punch, cake, and mints in the church basement? All that was perfectly duplicated in this serving window at the museum.

The last wedding dress on display in the museum was worn by a local girl at her wedding just this spring, and it was the typical style of 2012 -white and strapless. It was on the dress form right next to her great-grandmother's wedding dress, which made for a touching, interesting contrast.

Touring the show of these wedding dresses is more than nostalgia. It's a reflection of family pride, love, and ties to a small-town way of life.



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