Hannah Schladweiler has always been obsessed with tradition. When she got married, she made sure to have something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. “I even had a penny in my shoe,” she said.
So she was honored when a friend gifted her a collection of traditional wedding dresses in 2015. Schladweiler wanted to continue her friend’s legacy of teaching others about the c o l l e c – t i o n , which is made up of gowns that span 100 years. Schladweiler, who is from Beechwood, has experience researching, designing and making clothing for museums.
She is currently contracted by the Wisconsin Historical Society and has worked as a clothing coordinator for the Wade House in Greenbush. When Schladweiler first examined the wedding gown collection, she was amazed when she examined the collection. “I couldn’t help looking at it and thinking wow, we are borrowing a lot more than we think.
The individual elements within the dresses keep showing up over and over again,” Schladweiler said. On Saturday, Schladweiler shared her collection with the Farmington Historical Society.
About 50 people attended the presentation, which was held at the Boltonville Fire House. “This program was particularly appealing because if you go back in Boltonville’s history, there was a woman who lived here who made wedding gowns. Her name was Sophia Kraetsch,” said Marcia Theusch, president of the Farmington Historical Society.
Kraetsch was born in the Slinger area in 1849 and moved as a child with her family to Boltonville. When she was young, Kraetsch contracted an illness and suffered from growth issues and deformities in her wrists and hands. “She was really small featured.
Her father wanted her to be self supporting, so he built her that tiny house right near the town hall. He built the cupboards and everything for her size,” Theusch said. Kraetsch spent her time sewing and established a dress-making school out of her home.
She taught an estimated 200 girls how to sew. “As the story goes, she wore out three of those pedaled sewing machines,” Theusch said. Kraetsch became known across the area as a seamstress of wedding gowns. None of Kraetsch’s dresses were at Saturday’s event, but there were eight dresses displayed.
The oldest dress that the crowd saw dated back to about 1889, and the newest was from the 1980s. Schladweiler also brought a cutout of the wedding dress that Queen Victoria wore in 1840 when she married Prince Albert. “Queen Victoria was a major trendsetter, and she got married in white because it was fashionable.
And because she liked white,” Schladweiler said and pointed out that in the 1700s, silver had been the color of choice for wedding gowns. Everyone seemed to follow Queen Victoria’s lead, and upper class brides wanted white wedding gowns. By the 1880s, middle class brides were wearing white also.
At that time, brides would wear their wedding dresses every day as well, Schladweiler said. White was a popular color for everyday use, but those who didn’t want a white dress would dye them. Schladweiler’s favorite dress in her collection is a gown from 1914 that belonged to a woman in Fredonia. “She made the dress herself.
She told her granddaughter she picked raspberries all summer from a local farmer so she could buy the silk and the lace for the dress,” Schladweiler said. Then, after wearing the white gown in her wedding, she dyed it navy blue.
Schladweiler believes the woman wore the dress for a long time and added nursing panels on top. Also in the collection is a 1982 gown fashioned after the Princess Diana wedding gown. “There are a lot of things the same between Princess Di and Vicky.
You still have a full skirt, still have lots of lace going on, and fabulous puff sleeves. The Princess Di dress has an imitation bertha and has almost the same pleats,” Schladweiler pointed out. Now, as the world awaits the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on May 19, one of the questions is whether the 2018 wedding gown will carry on some of the same features as Queen Victoria’s gown.