Curator's Choice : Stars of the Historic Costume Collection
Object Name:
Object ID:
Coming from the French verb "trousser" for "to bundle", a trousseau or "wedding trousseau" is a collection of personal items prepared exclusively for a young lady upon her wedding day. These items included a usually brand new wedding gown, and sundry accessories. A veil, garters, stockings and lingerie were not uncommon, nor were linens, toiletries or subsequent items anticipated for a happy honeymoon. These were then stored in a hope chest. Trousseaus functioned to enrich the lives of women moving from their own families to that of their husbands', providing a certain level of comfort and luxury in this new life.
Trousseaus could be expensive, luxurious collections imported from Paris or London to outfit the brides of wealthy and elite families. More often than not, however, trousseaus were made up of an assortment of homemade items, delicately and lovingly created by mothers, sisters, and extended family member, usually women. These would then be bestowed upon the bride-to-be shortly before her wedding, and cherished as heirlooms thereafter.
The wedding rhyme of "Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence in her shoe" has acted as a guide to the contents of wedding trousseaus across 19th century weddings, surviving to this day as a charming and much-loved tradition.

This ca. 1863 corset is part of an historic wedding trousseau in our collection. The corset itself is made of an ivory sateen. Blue silk embroidered floral sprigs flourish at the bust and bust gussets. This same blue silk may be found at the bust and hip flossings. The panels of the corset are straight, with gussets inserted at the bust and hips to accommodate and mold the natural shape of the wearer. A straight metal busk runs down the center front, with crisscross metal eyelet lacing in the center back. Blue silk ribbon binds the top edge, which is also edged with narrow lace. The corset is lightly boned with spring-steel stays, and has machine-stitched boning channels.
The corset is only part of this lucky young lady's wedding trousseau. Bridal garlands of wax and paper orange blossom, made popular in the 1840 wedding of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert, were a favorite of 19th century brides, and are present in this collection. The bridal chemise and drawers were specially made for this event, along with her own bridal shoes and fan. A wedding dress of ivory silk faille, with blue bow details, completes this gorgeous trousseau. Blue, the color of feminine fidelity, was certainly accounted for on behalf of this young lady.

This wedding trousseau was made for Elizabeth Caroline Gardiner, nee Wheeler, originally of Hamilton, NY. Born in 1842, she was married in 1863 to Dr. William C. Gardiner. They had one son, Charles Gardiner. Dr. Gardiner practiced dentistry in Wauseon, Ohio before moving to Batavia, NY where he continued the practice. In May of 1887, Dr. Gardiner helped form the Batavia Wheel Company, acting as its Vice-President. Upon her husband's death, Mrs. Gardiner took command of the Batavia Wheel Co. Upon the death of Mrs. Gardiner, command was taken over by her son Charles.
Click to Enlarge