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Wedding dress

Wedding dress

  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    early 1899 (made)
    8 June 1899 (worn)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Sams, Harriett née Joyce (designed and made by)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    ribbed silk, satin, machine lace, braid.

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mrs Muriel Baker

  • Museum number:

    T.309, A to B-1982

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This crisply tailored purple silk dress was made and worn by Harriett Joyce for her marriage to Percy Raven Sams at St Andrew's Church, Earlsfield, Middlesex. Harriett worked as a lady's maid, while Percy worked for the London Water Board. Harriett chose to wear purple, as at 35, she considered herself too old for a traditional white gown. However, she trimmed her hat with wax orange-blossom, which was worn by brides for their first marriage.

The availability of sewing machines, commercially printed dress patterns and affordable but good-quality machine-woven silks and trimmings enabled skilled needlewomen to make sophisticated gowns at home like this dress. As a lady's maid, Harriett had excellent sewing skills, enabling her to finish her dress to a very high standard. A coloured day dress that could be worn for best after the ceremony was an extremely practical option for brides of limited means. Soon after the wedding, Harriett slightly altered the skirt, removing two side panels to create a narrower, more fashionable silhouette. She also added purple silk braid to the skirt-front so it could be worn separately with a blouse.

Physical description

Purple ribbed silk jacket bodice and skirt. The jacket has cream satin drapery down the front, overlaid with white machine lace and braid trimming. The flared cuffs of the sleeves are faced with cream satin and chiffon wrist ruffles. The front of the skirt is trimmed with applied braid and covered buttons. The ensemble is accompanied by wax orange blossom hat trimming

Place of Origin

London (made)


early 1899 (made)
8 June 1899 (worn)


Sams, Harriett née Joyce (designed and made by)

Materials and Techniques

ribbed silk, satin, machine lace, braid.

Object history note

Worn by Harriett Joyce (b.1863), the donor's grandmother, to marry Percy Raven Sams on 8 June 1899 at St Andrew's Church, Earlsfield, Middlesex. The family came from High Easter near Chelmsford. The bride chose to be married in a purple silk day dress due to her advanced age (she was 35). While purple is typically a half-mourning colour, there is no known association with a death in the bride's family.

Before marriage Harriett was a lady’s maid to Mrs Frances Boevey in West Kensington. Harriett's husband was a representative from the Water Board. She was a accomplished needlewoman who made her own dress and who altered it soon after her wedding to make the skirt narrower (parts T.309C to F-1982 are two skirt gores and interlinings; the other parts H to J are also fabric remnants from the dress) and more fashionable, although the alteration is so neat as to be invisible. Harriett was known as a neat, brisk woman who was said to have bought her and her husband's home with her own savings. (Information given by donor upon delivery of dress)


Silk; Satin; Machine made lace; Braid


Marriage; Fashion; Clothing; Day wear; Europeana Fashion Project


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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