The Renville County Historical Society collects wedding dresses through the decades – West Central Tribune

Morton – One might be forgiven if they thought the museum at the Renville County Historical Society in Morton entered the field of wedding dresses in 2022. For months, the museum had been swept up in satin, lace, and tulle as RCHS Director Nicole Elzinga put together a special exhibit on bridal fashion through the years .

“It was an interesting project, to say the least,” Elzenga said.

It started with one dress brought in by a woman who saved the dress from being discarded after the auction. The dress also came with a wedding veil, a buttonhole from the groom, and a wedding invitation with the names of the newlyweds. Elzenga managed to contact the grandchildren of the spouses, and from this, an idea was formed.

1913 wedding dress

This wedding dress from 1913, which Marie Dorschak wore to her wedding with John Soboda, was the dress that kicked off the RCHS’ 2022 show of wedding dresses over the years.

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“It would be great to have a wedding dress from every decade” of the 20th century, said Zinga. “So you can see the different patterns over the years.”

RCHS already had a few dresses in its collection, so Elzenga placed an order for other dresses in the association’s newsletter and published an article in the local newspaper. The response was more than Elzenga expected.

“That’s when the madness started,” Elzenga said. The museum ended up with about 45 dresses, both from its own collection and donations from the public.

Renville County Historical Society Executive Director Nicole Erzenga Surrounded by Wedding Dresses

Renville County Historical Society Executive Director Nicole Erzenga poses with wedding gowns at the Museum in Morton on August 3, 2022.

Shelby Lindrod/West Central Tribune

In addition to the dresses, Elzenga also wanted a lot of information about the dress, the wedding party, and the people involved. This included wedding invitations, newspaper writing and photos.

“If we don’t have the information, how do we tell the story?” Elzenga said.

Through the project, RCHS has collected about 140 years of wedding fashion – from the late 19th century to 2020. The oldest dress is actually not white, but black. This is almost unheard of, and Laura Ingalls Wilder is known to have worn a black dress to her wedding in 1885.

Younger dresses harken back to 2020 and are an illustration of how the coronavirus pandemic has affected wedding celebrations. The couple, Shanda Lindahl and Jared Krause, were supposed to marry in late March 2020, but the pandemic shut everything down after that. Instead, the couple had a smaller party with 10 people in May and the bride wore a blush dress. Then, in September, they had their biggest fall wedding and Lyndall wore a more elaborate gown.

Three wedding dresses

There are some similarities to wedding dresses that have remained the same over the years, including the color white and the use of embroidered flowers, as seen in this trio of dresses photographed on August 3, 2022.

Shelby Lindrod/West Central Tribune

“They all tell a story,” Elzinga said of the dresses.

Although there were a few dresses of different colors—including a pink, gray, and Victorian number with a red and gold top—shades of white remained the color of choice for most wedding dresses at the RCHS show. Although some dresses yellowed with age, the gallery was filled with dresses in various shades of white, cream and ivory.

Lace has remained a popular wedding dress trim over the decades, although the amount of its use has changed. Other types of decorations included bows, flowers, beads, and ribbon.

The wedding veil covers the back of the wedding dress with flowers and a bow.

The wedding veil covers the back of the wedding dress with flowers and a bow.

Shelby Lindrod/West Central Tribune

“You can tell the knot from the front,” Elzenga said, as the neckline style has changed a lot over the years.

What’s also changed includes the dress’s silhouette, length, and the amount of pieces used. Some dresses are super simple, while others practically scream Disney Princess — or ’80s.

Perhaps the biggest change is the amount of skin the brides show. For decades, even when the skin could be seen, it was still covered in transparent material. Today, it is common for brides to wear sleeveless and strapless dresses.

“It was so exciting” to see all the different kinds of dresses, said Zinga.

Victorian wedding dresses.  JPG

These shoes display Victorian wedding dresses at the Renville County Fair on August 11, 2022.

Shelby Lindrod/West Central Tribune

During the Renville County Fair, most of the wedding dresses were on display at the RCHS Building on the fairgrounds. Many were suspended from the ceiling, while many were placed on dress forms or hangers to give viewers a good idea of ​​what dresses would look like as they were worn by their brides.

After the exhibition, Elzenga’s plan was to collect all the dresses—most of which were donated to the museum—and store them. The museum does not have a space for a permanent display, although there is an opportunity to use it for other exhibits. While the dresses will not be displayed, they will be protected and stored away in acid-free archive boxes. And the backgrounds of the dresses will be protected too, so the happiest day in those brides’ lives will never be forgotten.

She collects all those stories and writes them down, said Zanga.

Various wedding dresses hang at the Renville County Historical Society Building at the Renville County Fairgrounds on Bird Island on August 11, 2022

The Wedding Dress exhibit from the Renville County Historical Society was shown at the Renville County Fair from August 10 through August 12. Dresses were displayed on garment shapes and hangers, and were also hung from the ceiling.

Shelby Lindrod/West Central Tribune

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