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Wedding dress

  • Place of origin:

    England (The wearer lived and married in Yorkshire., made)
    India (possibly , woven)
    India (possibly, embroidered)

  • Date:

    ca. 1807 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Embroidered muslin with cotton threads, lined with linen

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    On short term loan out for exhibition []

White muslin wedding dresses were particularly fashionable from 1790-1810, helping to establish white as the most appropriate choice for well-to-do young women marrying for the first time. This dress was worn by a seventeen year old bride, Mary Dalton Norcliffe who married Dr. Charles Best at the church of Saint Michael-Le-Belfry in York on 11 June 1807. At the time of their marriage Dr. Best was working as an Assistant Physician to Dr. Alexander Hunter at York Asylum.
Although the cut and construction of the dress follow standard practice, its decoration is striking. The asymmetrical embroidery on the front of the skirt recalls the drapery of a toga reflecting the current interest in classical antiquity. In May 1808 The Lady's Monthly Museum featured a formal dress, also made of muslin embroidered with cotton, with a similar decorative feature, suggesting that the decoration of the wedding dress was very up-to-date.

Physical description

Wedding dress of white muslin, embroidered to shape with white cotton. The bodice and sleeves are lined with white linen. Hand-sewn. Full length with the back extending into a long curved train. The dress has a high waist, low straight neckline and short sleeves. The sleeves were originally longer but have been cut down. The dress closes with an apron front. The side panels of the linen lining in the bodice extend into strips which are fastened (with a pin) across the chest. The muslin has been embroidered in the piece in chain stitch with a border of zig-zags enclosing flowerheads on the outside and scrolling leaves and berries on the inside; the two patterns are divided by a line of whitework which incorporates pulled threadwork. This pattern runs along the hem of the dress and diagonally across the front panel. A pair of leaf shapes which appear to have been worked at the same time as the other motifs are visible at the hem of the centre panel, possibly to mark the centre of the panel so that the decoration would lie correctly. The front facings around the neckline are trimmed with a length of fabric cut from the outer border. The fabric used for the sleeves and the back panel of the bodice is only embroidered with the zig-zag motifs. The sleeves are trimmed with muslin cuffs trimmed with silk braid which were probably added later.

Place of Origin

England (The wearer lived and married in Yorkshire., made)
India (possibly , woven)
India (possibly, embroidered)


ca. 1807 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Embroidered muslin with cotton threads, lined with linen


Length: 123 cm front panel from neck to hem, Length: 225 cm neck to hem of the train, Width: 69 cm front panel of fabric

Object history note

This dress was worn by Mary Dalton Norcliffe (1790-1837), daughter of Yorkshire landowner Thomas Dalton Norcliffe and Anne of Langton Hall, for her marriage to Dr. Charles Best (1779-1817) at Saint Michael-Le-Belfry, York, on 11 June 1807.

The dress was purchased from Meg Andrews in 2012 for 3000 pounds.

The dress was displayed in the 'Wedding Dresses 1775–2014' exhibition from 3 May 2014 – 15 March 2015.

Descriptive line

Wedding dress, muslin embroidered with cotton, England, ca. 1807


Muslin; Linen; Cotton




Europeana Fashion Project; Marriage; Ceremonial objects; Clothing; Women's clothes

Production Type



Textiles and Fashion Collection

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