What is a brides trousseau? Many years ago it would of been a dowry, but in more recent history the trousseau, from the old French word ‘trusse’ for bundle, would have been a trunk or set of luggage that contained all a young girl owned as she went off to start her new life as a married woman. The Victorians embraced the tradition, introducing the “trousseau tea” where wealthy families would display trunk loads of linens, china and clothes as part of the wedding festivities. It was over the top, and the idea was to show off all your wonderful things. To give an idea to the scale of just the outfits, Louis Vuitton, trunk maker extraordinaire created this adorable miniature trunk and dolls trousseau in 1865.
Wallis Simpson, who was famed for her extravagance, filled over 60 trunks with clothes and accessories by Chanel and Schiaparelli for her trousseau. The Queens wartime trousseau was helped by generous women from all around the country, caught up in the wedding fever sending in their own clothing ration coupons to contribute to the cost of her trousseau but as it was illegal to give away coupons, they were all returned. Actual physical gifts of silks and lace were gratefully accepted though and Norman Hartnell created outfits to go alongside her silk wedding dress. Grace Kelly’s wedding trousseau was certainly fit for a princess, consisting of around forty day and evening outfits, including two Helen Rose-designed wedding gowns, and a dozen costumes from her final film, High Society, donated by MGM.
The trousseau was important enough that some brides would cancel their wedding if it was not complete. Families would prepare for a bride’s new life by buying a large trunk, then collecting bed-linen and clothes, much of which would have been hand-sewn by female relatives or the bride herself. Mothers would prepare for the transition for their daughters by slowly putting away an extra bedsheet set, blankets and some china they received as gifts – whatever they could spare.
By the 1950’s it encompassed the outfit of a bride, including the wedding dress, her wedding day accessories and also the going away and honeymoon outfits as well as home items such as toasters and kitchen china. Luggage and trunks (often known as a Hope Chest) would be bought and would form part of the brides leaving home kit and if a boyfriend bought you one, well just see below…
The idea of packing a trunk full of linens, china, clothes and underwear for an exciting new life may sound quaint now that most brides live with their husband-to-be long before they marry – but it is something that some brides are embracing again to try to reclaim a little of the excitement that used to surround a genuine new start. These days a trousseau list is still very popular with Indian brides who on the whole still live with their parents until they marry. The idea seems kind of romantic to us and for that fact we like it!
For a great guide to luggage and trunks through the ages check out Case Luggage’s history of luggage timeline.
What do you remember from weddings of the past that we don’t see so often now? Share one of your wedding memories with us and we’ll feature it in an upcoming blog at National Vintage Wedding Fair.
Are you going to be a vintage bride soon? Come visit one of our upcoming vintage wedding fairs in Cambridge on 14th September, Harrogate on 21st September, Stoke Newington, London on 12th October or Chiswick, London on 9th November and find everything you need for your big day. For more details check the website – www.vintageweddingfair.co.uk.
Written by Sarah Gorlov
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