Wedding dress, womens, crocheted cotton, made by Jan Stokes from an Australian Women's Weekly pattern, worn by Jan Stokes (nee Ritchie), Glen Osmond, South Australia, 1976
This crochet dress was made by Jan Stokes for her wedding on December 11, 1976 at St Saviours Church in Glen Osmond, South Australia. Using a crochet pattern she had saved from the Australian Women's Weekly in 1973 Jan completed the dress over a three month period. This dress is a significant example of 1970s wedding dress, hand crocheted at a cost of around $30. The involvement of the bride in the making of her dress, the sourcing of the pattern from a popular Australian mass market magazine and the low cost of the dress contrasts with the often elaborate and costly designer dresses that are a feature of most contemporary western weddings.
The ideal of the white wedding dress dates from the late 18th century when, inspired by classical statuary, white cotton dresses became the height of fashion. A young woman dressed in white with her head covered by a veil went on to become a powerful symbol of modesty and purity exemplified by Queen Victoria's elaborate white wedding dress in 1837. This dress shows that even in the 1970s when many traditional social mores were being challenged, particularly in relation to women, the white dress persisted. It also reflects how, under the influence of the hippy counterculture movement and more relaxed attitudes to dress, the wedding dress moved away from the more formal silks to homemade and handmade garments using crochet, knitting, patchwork and hand painting.
Needlework and crochet were important skills for 19th Century women; young girls were taught by their mothers from the time they were old enough to hold a needle and by the 1840s in Australia needlework had become part of the school curriculum for young women. For lower or working class women, needle craft provided a means of earning a living. For the genteel woman, skill with a needle was a leisure activity and in the privileged classes of society, needle craft was ornamentation and a skill that was part of the social graces expected of a young woman. The 1970s saw a revival of interest in needlework and crochet and knitting in particular as a creative medium for artists and craftspeople and as a leisure craft for young women. Patterns for clothing were widely available through mass market womenÂ?s magazines like The Australian Women's Weekly
This dress is a significant addition to the Museum's collection of wedding dresses. This example demonstrates the 1970s craft revival and the influence of social changes on women's wedding attire.
Glynis Jones, November 2011
This wedding dress was made by Jan Stokes in 1976 from an 'Australian Women's weekly' pattern from 4 April 1973, titled, 'Crochet the year's most beautiful wedding dress'. It is made from at least 23 balls of Patons Crystal (50 gram) balls of acrylic white yarn. It was made in two pieces, bodice and full-length skirt, joined at a high waist. Jan did not use a satin ribbon bow for decoration, rather she altered the design to include a slight picoted edge at the join of the high waist section. The dress fastens with a white zip rather than the 18 buttons specified in the pattern and finished with two white buttons at the high neck. Jan describes how, 'the pattern as followed faithfully except for the waist join, the zip and additional length to the skirt to suit my height (an extra 6 inches/ 15.25 cm).
Two nights before the wedding day, Jan tried the dress on after it had been hanging on a coat hanger, to find the the dress has dropped (6 inches/ 15.25 cm) and was touching the floor. She then unpicked the lower half of the zip edges, then unpicked the waist and removed 6 inches of crochet work and re-stitched it back together. After these alterations the dress fitted perfectly for wedding day.
Information provided by Jan Stokes
This dress was made and worn by Jan Stokes for her wedding held at St Saviours Anglican Church, Glen Osmond, South Australia, Australia ion 11 December 1976.
In 1973 Jan saved a wedding dress pattern from her mother's copy of The Australian Women's Weekly (4th April 1973, page 27) titled, 'Crochet the year's most beautiful wedding dress'. Three years later Jan became engaged and returned to the pattern. The yarn was still available and she purchased at least 23 balls at a total cost of $30.00 to crochet the wedding dress. Jan's Grandmother had taught her the basics of crochet and she crocheted the dress as she travelled on public transport to and from work in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. The pattern shows signs of wear from these many trips and notations where Jan adjusted guidelines so the dress fitted her. It took Jan three months in total to complete.
Two nights before the wedding day, Jan tried the dress after it had been stored to find it had dropped 6 inches (15.25 cm). Jan unpicked the lower half of the zip edged, unpicked the waist and removed 6 inches of crochet work, finally re-stitching it together. The dress fitted perfectly on the wedding day.
Information provided by Jan Stokes