Few people know that Warkworth & Districts Museum houses an extensive collection of textiles in an approved textile conservation storage area to ensure the preservation of its wide-ranging items. Part of the collection includes more than 70 wedding gowns or dresses. The oldest dates from 1769, and was later made into an exquisite fine lawn christening gown.
Head of the textiles department Jenni McGlashan says wedding dresses, like all fashion, reflect society at the time.
She says the wedding dresses in the collection range from the elegant to the quite simple. For instance, there is a1944 gown with a long train. Because it was nearing the end of World War II when material was scarce, the length of material required to form the long train is surprising. One can only surmise that perhaps that is why the dress is very slinky to compensate for it.
Currently on display in the museum’s “Made In Our Back Yard” exhibition is a crocheted wedding dress made by Ona Price (nee Phillips) of Warkworth for the wedding of her daughter, Noelene Price, in 1977 at the Warkworth Anglican Church. It took Ona about four months to crochet the dress and headwear in the evenings, often after a day working on the farm. She used four-ply wool bought from Vanity Fair, a haberdashery shop in Warkworth which, according to Noelene, had a wonderful collection of knitting wool, patterns and needles. Ona kept her knitting patterns from the Home Journal, Family Circle, or Woman’s Weekly magazines in an old suitcase. There were patterns for three or four knitted/crocheted wedding dresses and since Noelene’s sister had a very nice lacy dress which her mother crocheted for her 1973 wedding, Noelene also got one for her wedding, which was chosen from the remaining patterns.
Noelene recalls that her mother sewed all their dresses. Bought dresses were expensive, way beyond the family’s farming cash flow. When clothing/sewing started at school in Form 1, the girls started learning to sew their own clothes and to do their own knitting. Ona and her husband Mansel Price were well-known local identities. Mansel was a stock agent and farmed on Matakana Road and on two properties in Woodcocks Road (where Southern Paprika and Mitre 10/Summerset Falls are today).
Noelene remembers feeling good on her wedding day and that her crocheted dress was special because it was made by her mother, and she appreciated the hours of work that had gone into creating something unique. A crocheted wedding dress was quite something at the time and quite a rarity. Noelene’s dress was full length and lined with satin. On the day, she wore matching white shoes and carried a bouquet of home-grown white orchids
The matching crocheted headpiece was secured with wire and clips. When not on loan to the museum, the dress, which is now almost 45 years old, has kept very well and is stored in the bottom of a wardrobe, in an old white pillowcase.