We’re delighted to now have digital 3D scans of Edith Williams’ trousseau from the late 19th century. A trousseau (pronounced troo-soh), was a bride’s collection of personal possessions, such as clothes, accessories, and household linens and wares that she would take to her new home when she got married. The Edith Williams collection is very fragile and vulnerable to light, so is not able to be on display very often.
Edith Williams of Pencalenick, a stately home in Cornwall, married Revered Sidney Cooper on 9 January 1890. Letters between them indicate that they had a happy marriage. As Sidney was a clergyman, he lived in a different social position, which might explain why Edith rarely wore the fashionable and expensive clothes as her social circle and responsibilities would have changed – not in the least because the couple went on to have 11 children.
It is incredibly interesting to note the variance of styles that was gifted to Edith as part of her trousseau. It would be curious to discover what the ideas and affiliations of these donors were – whether they were deliberately partaking in the Aesthetic Movement, or perhaps the Victorian Dress Reform, as the black bodice conforms with its higher neck and practical sleeves. While the other garments in the collection are practical in cut, but have fragile fabrics and brighter colours which render them a clear product of the industrial revolution.
The trousseau passed down through the family to her grandson, who kindly donated it to the museum.
Find out more about the collection and explore the 3D scans in this online exhibition.
All of the model have been created by Purpose 3D, and are available for sale and reformatting. Please get in touch with Jeni Woolcock, Collections and Engagement Manager, for more information on [email protected]
We’re grateful to Cornwall Museums Partnership and Art Fund for funding the digitisation of these pieces.
Bodice and Skirt of Two-Piece Day Dress
This bodice and skirt of a cream satin two-piece overlaid with black net. The bodice has a cream lace collar and panel with black edging and stripes, with fitted point sleeves. The maker’s label reads, ‘H. & M. Bishop, 47 Baker Street, Portman Square W.’
This was a day dress designed to be worn publicly. ‘Dresses’ were often in two pieces – the bodice and the skirt. Synthetic dyes were introduced during the Victorian period which allowed for brighter, more resilient colours, as well as fashions that accentuated lines, such as the gigot (puff) sleeves, the bustle at the rear and the cage crinoline making large skirts. Edith Williams’ clothing, though richly adorned and beautifully designed and made, was comparatively mellow with more natural lines and practical cuts. The bodice jacket of this day dress perfectly exemplifies the more modest style worn in the country, and perhaps reflects Edith’s lifestyle as she transitioned from wealthy merchant’s daughter to Reverend’s wife.
Black Satin Evening Dress
This black satin evening dress consists of a square-necked, short-sleeved bodice trimmed with cream silk organaza, lace and paste stones overlaid with black embroidered neck. The skirt is lined with black silk and has two gathered deep flounces with gathered edges in a fine black gauze at the lower hem. This would have originally been worn with a matching black net overskirt edged with jet beading.
This dress display the affluence of the gifter and would have been considered befitting a wealthy merchant’s daughter.
Cream Silk Skirt
A plain cream ribbed silk skirt, marked CC. The posterior of the skirt would have been shaped with a low bustle, which went out of fashion around this time, or with a pad.
The simple form of this garment resembles the country fashions of the time, which were adopted in wider circles as part of the Artistic Dress and then Aesthetic Dress movements. These garments evoked natural motifs, romanticised during the Victorian period as a direct contrast to the engulfing Industrial Revolution. It adopted simpler lines and used muted colours, usually from natural dyes, rejecting the fuss and structure of mainstream fashions.
Cream Silk Bodice
This cream silk bodice of an evening dress with double row of pearl beads, deep V-fronted neck, lace sleeves above elbow-length, satin bows on shoulders and two on each sleeve.
Late Victorian evening wear for women included a fitted bodice that slimmed the figure. The bodice was often embellished, sometimes extravagant with ruffles and frills, though here it is more considered. The V neckline is accented with pearl beads that highlighted Edith’s ties to wealth, while the paper-thin lace sleeves add a delicate touch. At first glance a reserved garment, the bodice is in fact exquisitely fashioned, with rich adornment.
Cream Silk Damask Bodice
This cream silk damask bodice with self-coloured floral design is front-fastening with a v-neck and features short sleeves lined with cream gauze, which remains on one sleeve.
There is a plain sash trimming at the waist, and the maker’s label reads ‘Russell and Allen, Old Bond Street’, marked ‘Miss E. Williams’.
The simple form of this garment and the floral damask patterning resembles the country fashions of the time, which were adopted in wider circles as part of the Artistic Dress and then Aesthetic Dress movements. These garments evoked natural motifs, romanticised during the Victorian period as a direct contrast to the engulfing Industrial Revolution. It adopted simpler lines and used muted colours, usually from natural dyes, rejecting the fuss and structure of mainstream fashions.
Cream and Black Heeled Pumps
A pair of heeled pumps in cream damask, lined with kid leather and a bow trim. The maker’s label reads ‘W.H. Dutton and Sons, Knightsbridge’.
A pair of black heeled pumps in glace kid, trimmed with a bow embroidered with jet beads and lined with red silk. These shoes appear simple and modest, but the details betray a shoe designed with a wealthy merchant’s daughter in mind.
Purple Heeled Pumps and Pale Brown Leather Shoes
A pair of purple heeled pumps in purple glace kid, with brown silk bows and lining.
A pair of pale-brown leather flat-heeled, side-laced ankle boots lined with linen. Marked ‘Miss Cooper 7674’ in ink.
They are practical and functional, consistent with the country styles that were becoming more prevalent around Britain. A repair has been made along the toe of the left boot, where they have been stitched closed.