"Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue."
The Shrewsbury Historical Society certainly has something old covered, with an exhibit featuring nearly 40 wedding dresses, including one from 1886.
Local families and visitors donated these family heirlooms. The exhibit debuted in November 2020, but was shut down by the pandemic. Starting in January, it can be viewed on Sundays from 1:30 to 4 p.m.
The exhibit was curated by Don Burden, the president of the historical society and the former mayor of Shrewsbury; Judi Buncher, the stylist and garment restorer; and Gee Gee and Robin Blair.
Buncher restored 26 out of the 39 wedding dresses, fixing wear-and-tear and removing stains, like red wine. She also remade several of the head pieces, sometimes using original materials. In one case, she restored every button down the back of a complex dress.
"I love history and I've always believed that you want to preserve history as much as possible," she said.
Other curators and volunteers also helped restore the dresses.
Each dress is accompanied by a picture of the bride wearing it.
"It's not just about the dresses, it's the stories that go with it," Burden said. "For most women, this was the most expensive dress they ever had and some of their families didn't have a lot of money and had to make sacrifices for them."
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The oldest wedding dress in the exhibit originally belonged to Miriam Allen of Deal, who wore it for her wedding in March of 1886. It was re-worn 65 years later by Miriam Buchaca, her granddaughter and namesake, in March 1951.
The hand-sewn silk satin dress is of a "unique style" according to the exhibit, featuring an eyelet-laced bodice over a boned-corset with a touch of lace around the neckline. There is also an inset "cap" at the shoulders that forms the long sleeves. The bodice is attached in back of the skirt, not the front.
Some of the former wearers of the dresses were historically significant to Shrewsbury, including Dorothy Manson, Shrewsbury's first female mayor; Emilia Siciliano, the mayor of Shrewsbury from 1999 to 2008 (who passed away in 2017); Elinor "Babs" Riordan, the daughter of Shrewsbury's first post mistress, Marie Riordan; and Virginia Herden, the granddaughter of Shrewsbury's first police officer, Otto Herden.
Buncher donated some family heirlooms, including her grandmother's dress, her mother's dress, her own wedding dress and the dress in which she renewed her vows. Burden's sister also donated her dress.
"It's wonderful being able to put my relatives dresses on exhibit," Buncher said. "I hope they are looking down from heaven and seeing this marvelous exhibit, knowing they were a part of it."
Robin Blair donated her own wedding dress, and the Blair family donated their grandmother's dress, dating back to 1908. Her name was Georgia Gotshall and according to the family, the intricate detail seen in the dress was thanks to a live-in seamstress who stayed with the family for a week or more at a time to design it and other seasonal clothes.
The exhibit continues to grow as donations keep coming in.
"We've already had between 500 and 600 people in here," Burden said. " ... It has brought a lot of new people in and exposed to museum more. So many people have come back and brought others to show them, and it's amazing."
Reservations for the exhibit are encouraged. Private tours can be arranged by calling the Shrewsbury Historical Society, 419 Sycamore Ave., at 732-747-3635 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Wedding dress styles exhibit at Shrewsbury Historical Society