This lovely wedding dress was worn by Cornelia Milam who married Leslie Gladstone McCraw on June 15, 1928 in Sandy Springs, SC. The dress was made by Cornelia’s mother, Hattie Pickett Milam. It is cream silk chiffon with lace yoke and lovely lace ruffles around the skirt and overskirt. Short, in 1920s fashion, the hemline dips in the back. The stylish low waistline has shirring on the bodice and gathers on the skirt. It has a side opening on the left with snap closure. The bridal veil of tulle is very fragile and not shown, but her cluster of wax orange blossoms and buds still exists, as do her lace and orange blossom shoe ornaments.

The wonderful wedding party photographs allow a peek at the dress and the bride as they look in 1928.

These were given to the Museum in 2010 by Cornelia’s daughter, Ann McCraw Nelson.

June Brides… surprisingly, based on the collection at the Museum, in earlier years most weddings weren’t in June. Other months seem to have been more popular, at least until the 1920s.

TEXTILE TUESDAYS: Each Tuesday we post a piece from our textile collection.  Some items have been on exhibit, some will eventually be shown in our new Historic Textiles Gallery and some may be just too fragile to display. We hope you enjoy our selection each week – do let us know if there’s something in particular you’d like to see on TEXTILE TUESDAY! #TextileTuesday

 Orange Blossoms

Orange blossoms have long been associated with weddings and brides. Tracing back to the Greek and Roman gods, they were symbols of fertility, purity and loveliness. In Greek mythology, Gaea, the earth goddess of fertility, presented Hera with orange blossoms on the night she wed Zeus. Juno, the Roman goddess of marriage and guardian of women, was said to have received orange blossoms from Jupiter.

In ancient China, where orange trees grew in abundance, the flower was used in bridal arrangements and in wedding tea – as emblems of purity, chastity and innocence.

During the Crusades, both the custom and the plant were brought from the East to Spain, then to France, and on to England. These trees became popular in royal and secular gardens from the 16th century on. In Crete, the bride and bridegroom were sprinkled with orange flower water; in Sardinia, oranges were hung upon the horns of the oxen that pulled the nuptial carriage.

Perhaps the popularity of orange blossoms as bridal flowers relates to the fact that orange trees are evergreen and capable of blooming in all seasons, are very prolific, and they bloom even as they bear fruit.  Their heady aroma is mysterious and romantic. There were even orange groves here in Charleston.  18th century Charleston merchant and botanist, Robert Pringle, was successful with his large plantation of orange trees covering the area now bounded by Tradd, King, Broad and Logan Streets. The Orange Gardens only lasted about 20 years, but provided many delicious oranges and undoubtedly many orange blossoms for wedding bouquets. Pringle shipped gallons of orange juice along with bags of dried orange peel to London. In 1747-8 over a million oranges were exported from South Carolina.

Today’s Orange Street was cut by Alexander Petrie when he subdivided the area into lots in 1767 and is a reminder of those fragrant gardens.

Queen Victoria is sometimes credited with bringing this tradition to later brides. As queen, she could have chosen any number of priceless diamonds for her veil in 1840. She chose instead a wreath of orange blossoms to signal that she was marrying as a woman, not as a monarch. This romantic notion was quickly adopted by English, European, and American brides, remaining a tradition for many decades. Brides even before Victoria selected orange blossoms for their wedding attire. Miss Mary Hellen, when marrying President John Quincy Adams’ middle son, “looked very handsome in white satin, orange blossoms and pearls” for her White House wedding in 1828. Orange blossoms for weddings continued well into 1950s. Jacqueline Bouvier wore orange blossoms in her lace tiara for her 1953 marriage to John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

White satin dress, 1914. Brussels lace trims the neckline along with clusters of pearls, glass beads and brilliants. The silk net veil is gathered to a band with wreath of wax orange blossoms. Silk stockings, kid gloves and satin pumps accompany the dress. The ensemble was worn by Wilhelmine Dorothea Meyer (b. 1888) for her marriage to Adolf Gevert Hollings in 1914. She was the mother of Senator Fritz Hollings of Charleston. Please be sure to scroll through the photo set as we fortunate enough to have Mrs. Hollings’ bridal portrait, shoes and orange blossom spray. 1986.53 The Charleston Museum

For more about the tradition of orange blossoms (and Queen Victoria’s contribution to the fad), check out this video with The Charleston Museum’s curator of textiles.