Thursday, May 2, 2013

Madeline's (Very) Orange "Flapper" Wedding Dress, 1928

Madeline Sirois Parker
Married in Fort Fairfield, Maine, February 20, 1928

Madeline Sirois Parker loved color. Living in Aroostook County Maine, the sunny days were revered and often called for excursions to pick fruit and enjoy a picnic.   She loved her flower garden and had not only a green thumb but a true sense of color, embodied in her orange “flapper” wedding dress, currently on view at the American Textile History Museum as part of the exhibition Behind the Veil. Madeline’s personality shines through her wedding dress selection. According to her granddaughter, Janith Bergeron, Madeline was always a very “colorful” person. Since Madeline lived in a very rural area of Maine, she purchased the fashionable dress in Canada. Spring was still far off, so she chose to wear a bright and colorful dress, rather than blending into the white on white of  winter. While a foggy wedding day may have concerned some soon-to-wed couples, it caused her groom, Lester Parker to comment that he was glad he could see her through “the weather.” Unfortunately, no wedding photographs were taken so we cannot see how stunning she looked in her shimmering flapper dress – although one can surmise she was beaming!

The dress was (and is) eye-catching. It no doubt had a slight orange glow from the light silk. With its uneven hemline, typical of the period, and its glimmering beads and sequins, outlining the low waist and trimming the sleeveless garment, Madeline would have been stunning on her wedding day. Her matching hat completed the ensemble. One senses she exuded confidence, for not every bride would feel comfortable making such a bold statement.

Janith (a skilled designer and inspired seamstress like her grandmother) recalls:

“sewing was a passion and I remember many days spent in her lovely sewing room which looked out onto the potato fields and the mountains on the other side of the St. John River. Madeline was a wonderful hat maker...she would create lovely ensembles of all kinds and then a hat to go with them.   Ladies did not go without hat and gloves.   Any trip to town was an occasion to dress (and I mean 'to the nines'). Madeline often did sewing for a dress shop in town...Avis's dress shop, Fort Fairfield, Maine.   It was a very popular place with garments often coming from Europe and Canada. And, oh, she was also a great cook and I'm happy to say I still have her cookbook.” 

Correspondence between the author and Janith Bergeron, April, 2013.
Janith Bergeron is proprietress of Designs By Janith and Co-Director of The Sewing Tree, Dover, New Hampshire.
The Sewing Tree
Designs by Janith

Photos of Madeline's dress below are courtesy American History Textile Museum; Frank Graham, photographer.

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For more stories about brides and their weddings, visit

American Textile History Museum
April 6, 2013 August 11, 2013
Whether extravagant or frugal, traditional or fashion-forward, the story behind a bride’s dress has much to tell us about her life as well as our common culture. A symbol of love and commitment, the wedding dress personifies girlhood fantasies, a moment of transition, a performance of cultural values. Behind the Veil: Brides and Their Dresses explores how brides over the past 100 years have chosen their wedding dresses, and how their decisions are shaped by fashion, family, and finances. This exhibition highlights not only the dresses worn on the big day, but the stories of the women who wore them – whether a traditional princess-style dress or a funky animal print, whether a simple homemade dress from the early 19th century or a mini worn in 1969. How have women created alternatives to the iconic white dress, or how have they embraced the fairytale wedding? More than an historical survey, this exhibition explores generations of women and the stories of their bridal attire.

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