GREENSBURG — Through the summer months of 2019, the Decatur County Historical Society is featuring “Wedding Dresses of Decatur County,” a collection of gowns from private and Historical Society collections representing different economies, styles and budgets from years long past.

Not always created in white or off-white fabrics, wedding gowns throughout the ages have taken on different fabrication, sewing styles to reflect different fashion trends, social moralities and styles of living for the 20th century woman.

The North Parlor display features five gowns and dresses, some two - and multi-pieced selections from 1896 to 1909.

Usually considered a bride’s “trousseau” (a brides’ collection of clothing to be worn on her wedding day), gowns from this period feature usually high-wasted styles with corsets and handmade lace ruffles to flatter the female body in the demure style typical of the period’s sometimes extremely conservative attitudes.

In the South Parlor are five gowns from 1917 to 1927.

Noteworthy in this room is the trousseau featured on the mannequin, which features an unusual head-cap style veil with extremely intricate lace beading, all made from natural silks, chiffon and cottons-weaves.

In the Dining Room are featured gowns from local retired educator Roberta (Bobbi) Mock. A departure from the usual whites and off-whites usually seen in bridal displays, a crimson calf-length suit with a chiffon overlay comes from the wedding of Mock’s grandmother Reestina Sidwell and local Robert Mock.

On the second floor, through the bedroom, the textile rooms and the gallery, gowns range in age from a striking full-drop steel-blue evening dress from 1852 all the way up to a gown worn in 1991 by the display’s curator herself.

“I love working with these gowns. I love to see the different styles, and I love that you can see what was important to the families as reflected in the coverage and fabrics making up a dress,” seamstress/curator Donna Swinford said. “If you think about it, it’s the same as it is today except it seems the older gowns - even though some were made with machine made laces - required so much work and craftsmanship to assemble. Gowns today are as beautiful, but don’t seem to have the same craftsmanship as those in the 19th century.”

Swinford has attended classes on the preservation of fabrics used in wedding gowns and confesses that sometimes the gowns donated to the Historical Society are “just beyond saving.”

“So many were made from organic fabrics like silk, and simply didn’t stand the test of time” she explained. “Even if they are brought to us in preserved condition, sometimes when I display them and expose them to the air, they just start to disintegrate. Gowns were not made to last forever, and that’s just sad.”

The Historical Society is open through the summer months from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturdays, with different hours on holidays and during festivals.

Visit or call 812-663-2764 with questions.

Contact Bill Rethlake at 812-663-5660 or email at

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