Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Remade Brocade: From Wedding Dress to Wedding Shoes

Textiles in the 17th and 18th century held their value long after a given style had ceased to be popular. Over and over, we find examples of brocades, damasks, woolens and so on, cut down and made into smaller items: a child's dress made from a mother's gown; a woman's bodice or jumps fashioned from a man's coat or an earlier a dress; a quilted petticoat transformed to bedspread, and textiles to shoes, needle cases and any number of smaller belongings. In this context, the use of a silk brocade from a 1739 wedding dress being refashioned for wedding shoes in 1773 is certainly consistent. Further, weddings are frequently conservative events, naturally imbued with traditions shared across generations.

When the 21 year-old bride, Deborah Thaxter (1752-1832) married Capt. James Todd (1751-1831), on 18 November, 1773, her mother had died few years earlier, in 1769. According to the Maine Historical Society (For more:), the young bride wore these silk brocade shoes, made from the fabric of her mother's wedding dress. (Her mother, Deborah [Lincoln] Thaxter, was married on 29 November 1739.) The family had its roots in the founding of Hingham, Massachusetts.
The survival of these shoes, created using a “repurposed” silk most likely held personal significance and meanings not included in the current family record. While the mother's circa 1730s silk brocade features rosy peach colored floral motif at the toes and bold plant forms associated with Baroque textiles, the form of the shoe is in keeping with the changes found in the later 18th century: longer shoe with a pointed toe and much smaller and narrower heel. The decision to employ an approximately 40 year-old textile was clearly of the bride's choosing. Memory of her mother was carried literally and figuratively into her new life via her new/old shoes.
The early years of Deborah's married life were punctuated by considerable uncertainty. Her husband, Captain Todd, was captured by the British while en route from Havana to Boston shortly after their marriage. The couple's first child was born 4 May 1774 and their next child, not until 1788. Capt. Todd was held prisoner for nearly nine years. Released in June 1784, he remained a sea captain until 1804.

As noted by the Maine Historical Society, the couple's youngest son, James, apprenticed as a gilder and looking-glass maker in Boston, then moved to Portland in 1820, where he operated the Portland Looking Glass Manufactory, served as president of the Maine Charitable Mechanic Association, and was active in politics.


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  2. Old weddings have their on wedding taste.

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