The Style and Storage of Wedding Dresses

Wedding dresses on display at Edmond History Museum, 2023.

By Amy Stephens

The Edmond History Museum is home to a varied collection of wedding dresses. Some are on display in the 2023 exhibit, Unveiled: Edmond’s Bridal Fashion 1875-2020. The range of styles is extreme: a beaded, princess-style gown, a flouncy Gibson Girl dress (think early Coca Cola advertising), a classic A-line of ivory satin.  

Colorful Dresses

Queen Victoria is credited for having spearheaded the wedding dress trends that are still cycling today. For her highly-publicized wedding in 1840, she wore a white satin and lace gown, veering away from the silver and gold gowns typically worn by the monarchy. She set the standard for white wedding dresses.

Despite the Queen’s influence, the museum’s collection is surprisingly colorful: a brown taffeta dress, a grey rayon sheath, a pink lace suit, a purple silk with black braiding, and even baby blue gloves and hat.

Wedding gloves and hat worn by Irma Goss in 1966.

Changing Hemlines

Wedding dress trends are markedly different from decade to decade. Even the lengths vary. Can you guess the era of these three dresses from six-word clues?  


  1. A simple drop-waist sheath dress
  2. The pastel-colored, sleeveless mini dress
  3. Puffy sleeves, opulent beading, long train


  1. The iconic flapper style of the 1920s
  2. The psychedelic 1960s, of course
  3. The 1980s (thank you, Princess Diana)

These examples are so opposite of each other. As historians, we delight in the variety, and our visitors do, too!

Museum staff prepare a 1904 lace dress for the Unveiled exhibit.

While people ooh and ahh over the bridal fashions featured in Unveiled, one lament is repeated over and over: “My dress is packed away in a box. I haven’t taken it out in years.”

An Ode to the Wedding Dress

The magnificent wedding dress:

     A symbol of love, ceremony and fashion.

 The magnificent wedding dress that

     Marked MY moment in time.

 Saved by photos and memories.  

     The most expensive dress I’ve ever owned.

 I’m so glad I saved it away in a box,

     Even though I haven’t looked at it in decades.

 Don’t get me wrong. I still love it,

     But that box sure is taking up a lot of space.

Wedding Dress Fashion

A woman spends an enormous amount of time dreaming about and shopping for her wedding dress—to then tuck it into a storage box for a few decades. Choosing the perfect one-time dress has become a rite of passage largely guided by the expectations set forth in bridal magazines. Weddings are a three-billion-dollar industry in the United States.

Looking back through history, however, weddings were less-steeped in expensive trends. Generations of low-to-middleclass women just “wore their Sunday best” or hand-sewed a colorful new dress––which was to become their next Sunday best. The ornate gowns that emerged in the Victorian era (ones that didn’t get recycled into church clothing) were initially limited to the wealthy, who could afford to pack away a dress after wearing it once. Now, it is the norm to wear the dress one time.

Preparing the 1875 ivory wedding gown for the Unveiled exhibit.

The 1875 Dress

The most talked-about dress in our wedding exhibit is also the oldest: an ivory satin dress with a bustle and bands of pleated ruffles. The bride, Juanita Oldham, was obviously “well-off” to own such an exquisite dress. And yet, she came to Oklahoma as a pioneer. We can only speculate as to her situation. Did she arrive by train, or is it possible that this dress traveled in a covered wagon? Space would have been a premium, as a typical wagon measured 4×6 to 4×10 feet (not much bigger than a table).

Pioneer wagons were often farm wagons converted for travel. This original Oklahoma Land Run wagon visited the museum in 2021.

Regardless of how Juanita traveled, the “luggage” she brought to Oklahoma was limited; carefully selected, packed amongst traveling staples of food and tools. And yet, this beautiful dress, packed in some kind of box, trunk or crate, made the priority list! It took up precious space, but arrived in remarkably good shape, providing us a fabulous example of 150-year-old craftsmanship. If Juanita’s dress could be preserved so well, surely we can preserve our dresses as well in this modern age.

The Woman in This Dress

The true value of textile exhibits comes from knowing who wore the clothing. About half of the museum’s wedding dresses came with incomplete information: just a name or a date. We can only love the dress and wonder about the bride. But, when a dress has a story, then “artifact magic” happens!  

  1. Jennie Forster (1888), became a bride one year before the Oklahoma Land Run. She started the first library in Oklahoma Territory by placing 100 books on the porch of her husband’s grocery store.
Jennie Forster’s wedding dress.

2. Eloise Rodkey Rees (1940), of the Rodkey Flour Mill family, passed her elegant dress down through family, and it was worn by multiple women.

Eloise Rodkey Reese wedding photo.

3. Sara Memmott (2009), is a current museum volunteer who didn’t marry until she was in her sixties. She picked a mother-of-the-bride dress, which suited her style more than the gowns designed for younger women.

Sara Memmott’s wedding dress.

4. Allison Snider (2020) ordered her gown, embroidered with colorful flowers and birds, during Covid from an online site. Because of restrictions, she was married at a ceremony with only ten people in attendance.

Allison Snider with her mother, Pamela Washington, in 2020.

Magical stories, forever time-stamped. Imagine if these special dresses and stories had not been saved!

Back to the Box

Do you have a unique wedding gown or an inherited dress taking up space? The museum is accepting a limited number of Edmond dress donations (see details below). Once a dress is accepted, we will, um….store it in a box.

But it will be an acid-free box! (See reference notes for proper techniques)

Seriously, it is a little sad that beautiful wedding dresses end up hidden away, but proper storage is a factor that helps prevent damage over the years.

I’m so glad I saved it away in a box,

     Even though I haven’t looked at it in decades.

Perhaps it is time to take that wedding dress out of storage for old time’s sake––and certainly if it is stored in a hot attic or a cheap cardboard box.

The magnificent wedding dress that

     Marked MY moment in time.

 Saved by photos and memories.  

     The most expensive dress I’ve ever owned.

So, open the box!

Bask in the memories once more. Revel at the tiny waistline you used to have. Cherish the old-fashioned style that was once the height of fashion. Image the delight your family members (or a museum visitor) could experience by glimpsing at your fabulous dress.

Enjoy the dress once more. Then store it better for the future.

Michelle Cheng’s wedding photo in 2002.


Storage Reference: Minnesota Historical Society offers simple guidelines in this article

Donation Note: If you are looking for a permanent home for a wedding dress, the museum is accepting a limited number of dresses that have an Edmond-specific history. Please send a photo and the story behind the dress to curator, Derek Lee, for consideration.     

Date Note: The Unveiled exhibit only runs through the end of 2023. Some of the more fragile dresses mentioned in this article might be changed out during that time to prevent damage. 

Queen Victoria Reference: Here is a great article that details Queen Victoria’s dress 1840 – Queen Victoria’s Wedding Dress | Fashion History Timeline (