Photo Detective – 1890s

Hazel Crawford recently sent me this lovely photo and asked if I could help with establishing a date. I’m always up for a photo detective challenge! The photo was taken outside Syringa House in Christ Church, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. Hazel is particularly interested in the photo as she is currently undertaking a massive renovation project of the house. Syringa is an Early 19th century cottage built of local gault brick and with a pantiled roof.

Hazel made a guess that her photo was of a christening as two small children are being held up to the camera and therefore seem a significant part of the family. However on closer inspection I was able to establish that the photo is a late Victorian wedding photo. It is often easy to overlook a wedding group if a `white gowned girl’ isn’t taking centre stage.

Late Victorian Weddings

The White Wedding was not firmly established during the 19th century. White wedding dresses were a luxury. Brides often wore a coloured day dress, which could be worn again.  It was also common for brides to wear a hat instead of a veil. Photos and newspaper evidence tend to report on the highest levels of fashionable society and therefore give a false impression that a bride always wore a white dress and long veil. In this newspaper report from 1894 the bride wore a fawn travelling costume with a hat to match.

Western Mail 10 Aug 1894


On closer inspection our central lady may not be wearing white, but she is carrying a bridal bouquet and her clothes and hat are trimmed with white.


Some brides did choose to wear white. This fabulous photo of Alma Simmonds was taken in 1897 and demonstrates the latest style of dress for the ’90s. What an amazing waist Alma has! She must have had a good corset. In the 1890s waists were tiny and were combined with top-heavy sleeves and bell-shaped skirts.

Our photo is typical of the 1890s which saw a rise of larger group wedding scenes.  Outdoor settings for wedding photos were more common in the later part of the 19th century.

Women’s Dress 1890s

I have taken a lot of my fashion clues from this very informative book by Betty Kreisel Shubert, which I highly recommend purchasing. It is easy to read and has a wealth of information.


The biggest clues to dating a photo from the 1890s are women’s sleeve style variations.

1890 -1892 The vertical high-top sleeve cap that had begun in the late 1880s lasted through to 1892

1892 The sleeve cap was growing wider horizontally.

A small vertical puff at the shoulder was, a sign that the gigot or leg-o-mutton was developing

Skirts were flared and A-line.

The Bishop Sleeve also grew wider. This photo of Agnes Groboski was taken in 1892 to celebrate her wedding to Frederick William Polglass Perrett in Queensland, Australia.
1895 – 1897 Sleeves were at their most extreme. Huge leg -o’- mutton sleeves were named after their unusual shape. They were formed from a voluminous amount of fabric at the upper arm which tapered to a tight fit at the lower arm from the elbow to the wrist. They had been fashionable in the 1820s and then went out of favour. In this short period during the 1890s the over blown sleeves were designed to accentuate a tiny corseted waist.

Dundee Courier 24 April 1896

In 1896 Agnes Perrett wore the latest fashion in sleeve style when she posed for this photo with her two boys Frederick and Stanley.


 1897 – 1898 Beginning in 1897 there was a change of emphasis at the top of the sleeves. Huge leg o’ muttons were replaced with ruffles, double ball puffs and other top of the shoulder decoration. The sleeve puff began to deflate and withdrew higher up the arm. We see smaller caps and big fanciful ruffles.  


1897 The ball-shaped puff sleeve style arrived in 1897 and variations lasted through 1900. The sleeve was narrow, topped by a separately sewn-on, small (or large)  ball-shaped puff which resembled a lollipop on a stick. The younger fashionable lady on the right of the group is wearing these sleeves. It almost looks like she wants to emphasise that she is wearing the most fashionable outfit  as she has turned away from the camera to show off her puff-ball sleeves and narrow waist.

1898 -1900 The sleeve returned to more modest proportion and skirts had a tulip flare.  A narrower sleeve was fashionable with some detailing at the top of the arm. You might see a small puff, frill or epaulette. Tailor-made suits were worn and we begin to see shirt-waist blouses.


Women’s Hats – 1890s


It is more difficult to date a photo form the 1890s by looking at hat style. Vintage photos show women wearing the same shape of hat throughout the decade. Looking at the sleeve style is usually more informative.

The straw boater or sailor hat was universally worn. Masculine styled clothes became fashionable with the rise of sporting activities for women. It was quite acceptable for a women to wear a boater where once it had been considered too masculine.  


Platter Hats were common. These had slightly larger straight brims than a boater.

Hats tended to be flat with a shallow, wide crown and there was a general trend towards wider hat brims.They were worn straight on or tipping forward.

You often see high, vertical trims in the 1890s.

It was fashionable to wear a hat with a veil. Four of the ladies in our wedding party are wearing hats with veils, which provides a clue to their identity.


Hairstyles grew fuller around mid decade. Hair tended to be waved or rolled back from the face. You begin to see wider brimmed hats that rest plate like on the head and were ornamented with bows, feathers and flowers.

In the 1890s men in their twenties and thirties began to discard the beard in favour of a neat moustache. Older men retained their beards as they represented dignity and authority. The Walrus moustache was the look of the decade.

Men wore a variety of styles of hat including bowlers, boaters and hombergs. The cloth cap with a peak was popular among ordinary working men for country wear.

Identifying our 1890s Bride

I know from Hazel that the Berry family were living at Syringa House, Christ Church, Upwell in the 1890s. From various census returns I found Samuel Berry, a farmer, married to Mary and they had at least 7 children.

Samuel Joseph Berry b 1825 Upwell = Mary b 1829 Pluckley, Kent

Samuel Hugh Berry b 1854 U.S.A

Alice Berry b 1856 U.S.A

Ida Francis Berry b 1860 U.S.A = James Henry Hutchinson m 1905

Clara Elizabeth Berry b 1862 U.S.A = John Francis Corke b 1839 m 1898

Ann Ellen Berry b 1866 Upwell d 1871

Sarah Jane Berry b 1868 Upwell  = Frederick Hyde m 1891

Florence Lucy Berry b 1871 Upwell  d Autumn 1898 = Francis Lidington Corke m 1895

1871 census Christchurch, Upwell

From my research I am dating the photo as sometime between 1897 and 1900. One of the ladies has ball shaped puff sleeves which came in to fashion around 1897. Ida married in 1905 which is too late for our photo. Sarah married in 1891 and this is too early. The oldest ladies are wearing fashions which are at the tail end of Leg O’ Mutton Sleeve Era dating the photo to after 1896. I am making an educated guess that our bride is not Florence either as she married in 1895. I believe therefore that the photo is either of Clara Berry or her sister Alice. I can’t find any records for Alice in the locality. I therefore think our bride must be Clara Elizabeth Berry who married John Francis Corke in 1898 in Pockthorpe, Norwich.

Marriage of Clara E Berry to John Francis Corke – 20 Dec 1898

On closer inspection this is an interesting wedding. Clara was 36 and married John Corke aged 60, a widower with 5 grown-up children. One of John’s children Francis had married Clara’s sister Florence Berry in 1895! Florence and Francis had 2 young children Stanley and John Corke born in 1896 and 1897. Clara’s brother in law Francis had been left a widower a couple of months earlier when her sister Florence died. Clara married her brother in law’s father. The two boys were brought up by Clara and another sister Ida Berry after she married.

1911 census records for the 2 young boys

I would love to go back in time. Did Clara marry for love or duty? Her marriage to a man who was old enough to be her father meant she could look after her deceased sister’s children and her new husband ‘s grandchildren. Clara’s sister Ida and her son-in-law Francis were both witnesses at the wedding. Francis emigrated to the USA and left his children behind with his father and later re-married himself.

The photo is therefore not a celebration of a double baptism as Hazel presumed,  but a close-knit family wedding. The two children are being held up because they are a significant part of the celebration. Stanley and John have just lost their mother Florence and their Aunt Clara is marrying their grandfather John Corke.

I am guessing the photo was taken before the party set off for the marriage ceremony and that the elder groom is therefore not present. The four ladies wearing veils are the Berry sisters and Ida is the sister at the front acting as bridesmaid and dressed the same as her sister, but without the bouquet.

I love knowing the stories behind a photo and doing a bit of detective work.. What a wonderful thing to know the story behind the people that lived in your house. I was very pleased to be able to help Hazel in her quest for information. Please do get in touch if you have an interesting photo for me to play detective with!



1920s – a Head for Fashion

Wedding gowns often reflect the fashions of their era and so photos from the 1920s can be dated by various clues such as sleeve style, neck line and dress length. Some brides did choose to wear their mother’s or grandmother’s wedding gown which can be misleading. However if the bride wore an older style dress she often updated her hair style and veil. In group wedding photos the attire of the bridesmaids and wedding guests can also provide useful information as to the date.

1920s Bridal Head-dress

1920s veil

Bridal Headgear

At the beginning of the Twentieth century Bridal Head-gear was worn much higher than later the in the 1920s.

1900 Rosina Nelson
1907 Rose Merry
1910 Bridal Veil
1918 Dorothy Carter


In the 1920s Mob caps were  fashionable as bridal headdresses. A mob cap was a large cap or bonnet covering much of the hair, typically of light cotton with a frilled edge. Sometimes it was tied under the chin with ribbon and was worn indoors by women in the 18th and early 19th centuries. In the Victorian period, mob caps had become the head covering of servants and nurses. However the 1920s saw a resurgence of the mob cap in bridal wear.




 1921 Dorothy Greaves – Mob Cap style headdress and veil

Later in the 1920s brides favoured lace cloche headdresses, some of which would be encircled with flowers. Veils were usually made of silk materials and decorated with flowers and leaves. Orange Blossom was often used to decorate the head-dress.

Tiaras, veils and headbands were all worn low over the forehead in the 1920s.


1922 Double Wedding with veils worn low over the forehead.

A Juliet cap was a small open-work crocheted or mesh cap, often decorated with pearls or beads and worn with evening gowns and bridal wear. The cap was named after the heroine of  Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and was often worn with a long cathedral-length veil in the 1920’s. 

1929 People's Home Journal

1929 People’s Home Journal


Western Morning NewsMonday 10 December 1928

1928 Juliet Cap of lace and pearls



In the 1920s White Russian emigres fleeing revolution and civil war influenced the fashion scene. Thousands of Russians fled to escape the Bolshevik revolution and many immigrant women found work in French couture houses using their skills in embroidery and knowledge of traditional Russian patterns. Designs influenced by Russian peasant costumes became popular. One fashionable design was based on a Russian girl’s headdress called a kokoshnik.


In 1922 the heiress Edwina Ashley married Lord Louis Mountbatten  and wore a Russian inspired pointed coronet.


Miss Irene Hill was noted as having a `fashionable wedding’ in India and wore a Russian coronet of orange-blossom.


Exeter and Plymouth GazetteTuesday 25 August 1925

I am fascinated by this wonderful photo taken of Helen Fry Kingston wearing a most impressive Russian kokoshnik style headdress at her wedding in Queensland, Australia in 1929.

1929 Perrett Kingston Wedding

1929 Helen Fry Kingston and Francis J Perrett

At another 1929 wedding Minnie East has a much simpler headdress. However it is still worn low down 1920s style.


1929 Minnie East


Western Morning NewsFriday 01 April 1927

1921 Bridal Veil
1922 Bridal veil
1922 Edwina Ashley
1923 Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon
1925 Bridal Veil and Orange Blossom
1927 Louisa George Bridal Veil
1929 Minnie East Wedding Veil
1929 Perrett Kingston Wedding Head-dress


Picture Hats


Alternatively a hat was worn by the bride and or bridesmaids. We often see wide-brimmed picture hats until mid decade when the neat cloche became the most fashionable style.

Larger picture-hats were often called vagabond style.


Dundee Evening TelegraphWednesday 12 October 1927


Chelmsford ChronicleFriday 20 August 1920 



1922 Wedding party with wide-brimmed Picture hats


1923 Picture hats


At this wedding reported in 1929 the bride wore a black velvet picture hat and the bridesmaid wore the newer style cloche hat.


Cloche hats


The cloche hat or simply cloche was a fitted, bell-shaped hat for women that was invented in 1908 by milliner Caroline Reboux. They became popular from about 1922 to 1933. The name is derived from cloche, the French word for “bell”. A Cloche hat had a basic bell contour with a bulbous crown which if correctly designed could add inches to the height of the wearer. The hat had to be all but pulled over the eyes, making the wearer have to lift up the head, whilst peering snootily down the nose. Brims became smaller as the decade progressed.

1926 Cloche Hats
1927 Cloche Hats

I have found references to not only ivory and black coloured cloche hats worn by brides and bridesmaids, but also a lot of colour.


1925 Edith Punchard wore an ivory lace cloche with clusters of pale yellow flowers


Exeter and Plymouth GazetteThursday 21 May 1925

1925 Bride Hilda Webber wore a blue & silver shot cloche hat trimmed with forget-me-nots.


Exeter and Plymouth GazetteTuesday 28 April 1925

1924 small blue cloche hat trimmed with tuft of paradise feathers.


North Devon JournalThursday 12 June 1924


Blue seemed to be a popular colour choice influenced by the royal weddings in the early 1920s. Princess Mary chose blue as the colour for her bridesmaid dresses and the colour became known as Princess Mary blue.


Grantham JournalSaturday 25 February 1922

Many brides wore a veil for the marriage ceremony, but chose to wear a cloche hat to go on honeymoon.

Bridesmaids veils

Another interesting feature of 1920s weddings is that bridesmaids sometimes wore veils! This can make it difficult to distinguish the bride in photos.



1922 Princess Mary’s bridesmaid veils

Nancy Davidson chose veils of primrose-coloured net for her bridesmaids to tone with their primrose coloured chiffon dresses fastened with blue sashes. They carried bouquets of blue delphiniums. I was delighted to have found these descriptions. Black and White photos look so drab and give no impression of the colours.


Sheffield IndependentThursday 20 June 1929

Winifred Griffiths also favoured blue as a colour. Her bridesmaids wore blue  satin dresses with head dresses of blue net fastened with wreaths of forget me nots.


Buckingham Advertiser and Free PressSaturday 25 May 1929


In the 1920s bridesmaids did sometimes wear white veils which were very similar to the bride. While in modern times a bridesmaid is expected to assist the bride, her duties were regarded as of a more serious nature in earlier days. A custom once existed where maidens dressed similarly to the bride would accompany her as her protectors on her way to the groom’s village. This would deflect spurned suitors from kidnapping the bride or from stealing her dowry. Roman law once required witnesses to come to weddings in order to confuse evil spirits as to the identity of the bride and groom. This meant that female wedding attendants came to a marriage ceremony in garments very similar to the bride’s, This supposedly threw off bad luck that could be directed towards an easily identifiable bride and groom. In the 1920s it seems to be more of a case of fashion being influenced by the past than superstition influencing fashion.

Bandeau Headpieces


During the first half of the 1920s women wore decorative bands across the forehead with evening and party dresses and this head decoration was reflected in bridal headpieces. Bridal Fashion introduced Bandeau headdresses in the later 1920s.



Derby Daily TelegraphFriday 07 December 1928 

However clearly this Derbyshire vicar had strong views on `Modern Wedding Attire’. I’m therefore sure that Lady Edith would have kept her veil on for her wedding and not just worn a bandeau.



Flower girls – mob caps and dutch caps

There was also a fashion to have young flower girls in addition to bridesmaids. Little girls carrying flower baskets might wear puff-sleeved dresses and mob caps, emulating  the historical Kate Greenaway style.


Western Daily PressMonday 24 June 1929





1927 Wedding Louisa George

Not only the small flower girls, but also the chief bridesmaid is wearing a simple mob cap at this wedding. I must admit they look like  shower caps to me!


Western Morning NewsWednesday 11 June 1924


1926 Edith Amelia Polglass Wedding


1925  I much prefer the flower girls bonnets chosen by Dorothy Jones

Dutch Caps

Another distinctive bridesmaids head wear was the wired cap with horizontal wings that resembled a Dutch head-dress. This style looks like a fashion faux pas to me. However Edwina Ashley chose Dutch caps for her bridesmaids dresses when she married Louis Mountbatten so maybe I’m missing something!


Western Morning NewsTuesday 18 July 1922







Western Morning NewsTuesday 13 December 1927 

Hopefully I have given a few clues to identifying 1920s wedding photos from the headgear worn.  Next time I will be looking at the dresses themselves.


1922 Double wedding of siblings William and Jane Pomfret




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March Posy

March Posy Small-14

For this month’s Posy I wanted to create an image that represented the start of Spring and Easter.

March’s flowers in our garden have been a beautiful Spring colour palette of yellow, violet and fresh Spring Greens.

Spring Hues


I have chosen to grow a lot of native wild flowers. This month we have had a good show of native primroses – primula vulgaris. These are a beautiful pale cream yellow. Primroses always symbolise to me that Spring is on it’s way. My Uncle picked a small bunch of primroses from the woods for my mum when she was born in March. Now whenever I see primroses I think of mum!

Church House, Pitton near Salisbury


Primrose Hues

March Small-39

I have another variety of primrose in bloom in the garden called `Emily’ which is a slightly darker yellow colour. There are also creamy primula flowers.

Primula vulgaris



As a child I dreamt of creamy yellow primroses in a posy as a wedding bouquet.  I am a very romantic soul!  I imagined myself picking woodland flowers and flouncing about in a Jane Austin inspired Regency Wedding dress. I hadn’t even read any Jane Austin aged 8! When we walked in Grovelly Woods to see the primroses as a child I remember a derelict cottage I dreamt of renovating and restoring. That’s where I would have flounced off to the church in my Empire Line Dress with my Spring bouquet of primroses and violets!

I did enjoy the grounds of The Baytree Hotel in my Empire Line Dress on my wedding day. In reality primroses were too small for my bouquet so I opted for yellow roses instead. The idea of something picked straight out of the garden arranged in an informal way stayed with me. I opted for informal jugs of Spring flowers on the tables including Spring Green Viburnum opulus and yellow Forsithia.

Spring Sunshine Bouquet
P&D (055)
Just Picked

Our March garden has also had a good display of vibrant yellow daffodils with dainty, minature Tete-a-Tete being my favourite.

Tete a Tete

The other flowers in bloom have been violet, mauve and blue in colour. We have clumps of the native woodland violet. The front garden has a beautiful carpet of Anemone blanda in shades of violet-blue and white and in the back we have purple crocus blooms and blue muscari.

Anemone blanda
Anemone blanda
Purple Crocus
Drayton Blooms

Anemone blanda

Purple Crocus

March Primula
March Primula

I’m also rather proud of my pink ranunculus flower. However this bloom was too precious to cut for my Posy of the month project.


March Posy

March PosyMarch Posy Small-14

The vintage buttercup design fluted cup and saucer was manufactured by Henry M Williamson & Sons, based at the Bridge Pottery Works, Heathcote Road in Longton, Stoke on Trent. Williamson traded from 1879 – 1947. The name was changed to Heathcote China in 1928. H M Williamson & Sons

March PosyEaster Biscuits

I  enjoyed making Easter biscuits to photograph my Easter posy and they seemed to be enjoyed by my running club after a recent cross country run.

Spiced Easter Biscuits

Originating from the West Country, these lightly spiced biscuits were traditionally given as a gift on Easter Day. My mum always used to make them at Easter time.

300g plain flour

50g icing sugar

1 tsp mixed spice

175g cold butter, diced

1 medium egg, beaten with 1 tbsp cold water

125g currants

1 egg white

Caster sugar for dredging

Mix the flour, icing sugar, spice and butter together until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Gradually add the beaten egg until the mixture clumps together.

Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead in the currants. Flatten the dough into a disc and wrap in clingfilm. Chill for 30 minutes until it is firm.

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan oven), gas mark 4.

LIghtly flour the worksurface again and roll out the dough until it is 4mm thick. Stamp out circles with a 6 – 7 cm fluted citter and arrange spaced apart on lightly greased baking sheets.

Whisk the egg whit e until frothy and brush over the biscuits. Sprinkle with the caster sugar.

Bake for 12 minutes until lightly golden. Cool on a wired rack.

They will keep for up to a week in an airtight tin.

March Posy

Easter Posy

For some reason primroses are the blooms I think of when I think of an Easter Posy. I always remember being read the Alison Uttley stories as a child and have never forgotten the second tale in which sensible Little Grey Rabbit makes primrose wine to cure Hare’s cold.

Little Grey Rabbit

March Posy

A Cup of Primroses

I tried another Spring arrangement of primroses in my H & R Daniel Etruscan shape teacup and saucer for a completely different effect. I thought the creamy primroses went well with the gilt details and the navy and lemon pattern. (Pattern 3860). Henry and Richard Daniel were manufacturers of high-grade decorative porcelain and earthenwares at Stoke and Shelton from c.1822-46. All Daniel porcelains are of very fine quality but are seldom stamped with a maker’s mark.

March would not be complete without an arrangement of cheerful Spring daffodils.

March Flower Arrangement

Do let me know which is your favourite – zingy yellow daffodils or softer creamy primroses?  I can’t decide!


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Downton Abbey Style Wedding Flowers

1925 Lady EdithI am a big fan of the period drama Downton Abbey and was delighted that Edith Crawley finally found happiness with her marriage to Bertie Pelham.

1925 Lady Edith

As I have been researching social history and 1920s wedding flowers I was particularly interested in Edith’s bouquet and wedding attire. The overall effect was charming. However I am not convinced that the flowers were typically 1920s in style. Edith is carrying a shower bouquet and newspaper articles from the 1920s do refer to `Shower Bouquets’ of roses, lilies and carnations. However over time fashions have produced numerous variations on the traditional shower bouquet.  I feel Edith is carrying a bouquet which is more typical of a late 1980s style shower bouquet, wired into a floral foam plastic holder, than a 1920s Shower Bouquet.

Shower bouquet
1992 Wedding Mandy Homer

Cascading bouquets were originally referred to as shower bouquets in the Edwardian period and replaced the fashion of neat Victorian posies.

1900 Robert & Sarah - Uncle Harry -bridesmaid -Groom Austin & Bride Rosina - bridesmaid & brides parents Mr & Mrs Robinson
Edwardian Wedding Group 5

Victorian Style Posies

Edwardian Shower Bouquets

This style became exaggerated by 1920, with much larger bouquets, so large they almost concealed the bride. They reached their peak from 1920 – 1930’s until WWII.

1929 Wedding of John Asquith and Doris Harrison

1929 Wedding of William Hathaway Jerrett and Theresa Shurrock

1926 Wedding of Edith Amelia Polglass and Charles Arthur Furley

1920s Shower Bouquets

In shape a wired shower bouquet is softly roundish at the top but pointy at the bottom and is designed to spill over the brides hands in a cascade. The shower bouquet also became known as the Princess in honour of the late Princess Diana and her impressive 1980s bridal bouquet.

1981 Lady Di Shower Bouquet

1980s Shower Bouquet

Lady Edith’s bouquet is much neater in shape than any of the shower bouquets I have seen in  original 1920s photographs. The wired shower bouquet was originally made on a moss ball. Sphagnum moss was made into a ball about the size of a golf ball and into this was poked a long hairpin-like wire. Every flower or piece of foliage was then mounted onto a suitable wire and the wires were then made into a handle. The shape was large and loose with trails of foliage.  The trails were bound together with binding wire. Some florists used green silk-covered wire. Gutta tape wasn’t used. Most of the photos I have seen show 1920s shower bouquets to be big, loose round shapes with cascading foliage.

1929 Wedding

1929 wedding of Minnie Ratcliff and Leslie East

1929 Wedding

1929 Leslie and Minnie East

1921 Wedding-1

1921 wedding of Dorothy Greaves and William Shaw

These two 1920’s shower bouquets are reminiscent of my Grandma’s wired 1930’s bouquet with white carnations and Asparagus setaceus fern trails. The whole effect is much more round in shape and sparse, being less tightly packed then Edith’s bouquet.

Asparagus setaceus

White Carnation wired shower bouquet

1920s fashion

Flowers and Foliage used in a 1920’s Bouquet

My research has shown me that the vast majority of 1920’s shower bouquets were made with either carnations or roses. The blooms were usually white or pale pink in colour and mixed blooms didn’t tend to be used in the same bouquet. I have found only one reference to red flowers and newspaper reports suggest that most bouquets were just one colour. I think it is very unlikely that a 1920’s bouquet would contain red, white and pink roses as depicted in Edith’s bouquet.  Apart from the ubiquitous carnations and roses I was surprised to be able to compile quite a long list of flowers mentioned in 1920s bridal bouquets – orange blossom, lily of the valley, white heather, pink tulips, white sweet peas, chrysanthemum, white lilac, orchids, gladiola, aster, belladonna delphinium together with both longiflorum and arum lilies.

1929 People's Home Journal


Bridal roses tended to be white or pink. From my research I was amazed at the number of references to named varieties of garden roses. When I got married I was advised that `garden roses shouldn’t be used in a bridal bouquet as they are not bred for the cut flower trade.’ I thought this was such a shame. Roses grown for bridal bouquets are now often bred on a large scale to maximise stem length and longevity, but they often lack the beautiful fragrance of garden blooms. Named varieties included Niphetos, a white `bridal rose’, pink Dorothy Perkins and Catherine Mermet.

Blush pink rosesNephetos RoseCatherine Mermet

1929 roses and fern1922 roses and smilax1920s rose bouquet

Grantham JournalSaturday 03 September 1927

1927 Ophelia Rose Bouquet

CornishmanWednesday 07 September 1927

1927 sheaf of white roses


Carnations have gone out of favour largely due to the wide availability in supermarkets at competitive prices. However they were viewed completely differently in the 1920s. Malmaison Carnations date back to the 1850s.  They were originally bred in France in 1857, and because of their quartered flowers looking similar to the bourbon rose, Souvenir de la Malmaison, they were named Malmaison Carnations. Malmaison Carnations (Dianthus) were richly clove scented and were prized for cutting. There were 40 cultivars in the carnation’s heyday and sadly now only five remain.

Carnation 1888Duchess of Westminster pre 1902

1929 carnations1920s carnation bouquet1921 carnations

Burnley ExpressSaturday 02 June 1928

1928 shower bouquet of pink carnations

Orange Blossom

In the 1920s orange blossom was used extensively. However at that time a lot of big gardens had an orangery and great care was taken in the care and cultivation of orange trees. Scented English orange blossom was therefore much more widely available.

Orange Blossom
1922 Orange Blossom Corsage1922 Orange Blossom1924 Orange Blossom
Dundee Evening TelegraphFriday 08 July 1927

1927 sprigs of orange blossom

White Heather

White Heather
Western TimesFriday 19 September 1924

1924 shower bouquet of lilies and white roses


Sweet Peas
1920 sweet pea bouquet
Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish AdvertiserFriday 22 July 1927

1927 sweet pea bouquets


1929 Chrysanthemum bouquet1927 Chrysanthemum Bouquet1920 chrysanthemum bouquet
Western Morning NewsMonday 10 December 1928

1928 shower bouquet of white chrysanthemum


Gloucester JournalSaturday 19 September 1925

1925 Asters and Gladioli

Lily of the Valley

Lily of the ValleyLily of the Valley Vintage Print
1920s Lily of the Valley
Bath Chronicle and Weekly GazetteSaturday 07 August 1926

1926 pink roses and lilies of the valley shower bouquet



1925 lilac and orchid bouquet



Pink Tulips


1923 Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon

1928 Tulip bouquet, pink dress


1922 Delphinium Sheaves1920 delphinium overarm bouquet
Sheffield IndependentThursday 20 June 1929

1929 bridesmaid bouquets of delphiniums



Western Morning NewsThursday 11 August 1927

1927 sheaves of gladioli

Orchid PrintOrchid PrintOrchid
1922 Edwina Ashley and Lord Louis Mountbatten1922 Orchid Sheaf Bouquet
Dundee Evening TelegraphFriday 08 July 1927

1927 American style bouquet of orchids

Compact 1920s bridal bouquets were more often seen in the USA.  In the UK  a 1920s shower bouquet tended to be larger with masses of foliage, yet relatively few flowers. British bouquets looked more disorganised and had long trails of green foliage compared to those seen in photos from the USA. American bridal bouquets had some greenery, but were more likely to be bulked up with an abundance of trailing ribbons, bows and attached sprays of flowers.

Longiflorum Lily

Lily longiflorumLily longiflorumLily longiflorum
1922 lily sheath bouquet21922 lily sheath bouquet1920s Arum Lily bouquet

Dundee CourierTuesday 05 January 1926

1926 sheaf of longiflorum lilies


Madonna Lily

Fragrant, trumpet-shaped pure white flowers 6-8cm in length. Flowers in the Summer.

Not to be confused with the Easter lily (Lilium longiflorum), the Madonna lily (Lilium candidum) is believed to be the flower given to Mary, the mother of Jesus, by the Angel Gabriel when Mary found out she was pregnant. Paintings from the time of the Middle Ages often feature the flower in depictions of the encounter.

Lilium candidumMadonna LilyThe Annunciation


1925 sheaf of Madonna lilies

Exeter and Plymouth GazetteTuesday 25 August 1925
 Lily Auratum

1929 lily sheaf bouquet

1920s sheaf bouquets

This old variety is white with a gold band in the centre of the petals, with brown speckles.

Calla lily

Arum lily
1920s Calla lily bouquet1924 Calla lily bouquet
Buckingham Advertiser and Free PressSaturday 25 May 1929

1929 Sheaf of arum lilies

In 1920s photographs I have seen several varieties of fern used as foliage including Asparagus setaceus, Asparagus asparagoides and maidenhair fern. Do check out my guide to ferns as there are a surprising number of different types. Myrtle was often used as an aromatic foliage.  It has became a royal tradition to carry a sprig of myrtle in the wedding bouquet. Kate Middleton’s bouquet contained a sprig of myrtle from Queen Victoria’s garden. In fact, every royal bride since Queen Victoria has incorporated myrtle into their bouquet. Edith’s bouquet does contain maidenhair fern. However I can’t decide if myrtle has been used or whether it is Eucalyptus foliage I can see. Either way I feel the foliage should have cascaded a bit more and we should have seen some trailing feathery plumes of Asparagus foliage.

Asparagus setaceusMaidenhair fern



Nottingham Evening PostThursday 22 April 1926

1926 myrtle


1920s Over Arm Sheaf Bouquets

1922 Double Wedding

The other style of bouquet that was popular in the 1920s was the arm sheaf bouquet. They first became popular in the early 1900’s under the name of Bernhardt bouquets; inspired by the presentation bouquets given to the actress of the day, Sarah Bernhardt. They were long stemmed flowers and foliages carried by the bride cradled in her arm. They could be single-ended, with stems showing at one end, or double-ended with no stems showing. Most typically they were made using longiflorum lilies, but any long stemmed flowers could be used. Popular floral choices for arm bouquets were calla lilies, gladiolus, orchids, long-stemmed roses, delphiniums, and larkspur.  Ribbons were sometimes woven into the design.

Dundee Evening TelegraphFriday 08 July 1927

1927 Huge sheaves of country flowers


1920s sheaf bouquets

Some of the photos I have seen show the bride carrying a different style bouquet compared to her bridesmaids.

Bath Chronicle and Weekly GazetteSaturday 11 September 1926

1926 sheaf of lilies and Victorian posies of roses

There were two important royal weddings in the 1920s – the marriage of King George V and Queen Mary’s daughter, Princess Mary in 1922 and that of their second son, Prince Albert, Duke of York to Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in 1923. Elizabeth was also a bridesmaid at Princess Mary’s wedding.

1923 Royal Wedding

1923 Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon

1922 Wedding of Princess Mary

Lord Louis Mountbatten married The Hon. Edwina Ashley on 18th July 1922 at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster, London in a glittering social event, with all the Royal Family in attendance. The wedding was the social event of the decade and attended by a vast gathering of Royalty which included King George V.

1922 Mountbatten Wedding1922 Lord Louis Mountbatten

Edwina’s bouquet was a simple, elegant over-arm sheaf of orchids and her bridesmaids carried delphiniums. There is no foliage to be seen! Edwina’s bouquet is in stark contrast to the enormous fern filled bouquets I have seen in middle-class photographs.

What flowers do I think Edith would have chosen for her wedding in 1925? It was customary for the groom to provide the flowers. Constance Spry stated in 1934 `The bride’s flowers are the gift of the bridegroom – although, nowadays she often chooses them herself, and decides on the price. The old idea of the gift of flowers coming as a delightful surprise on the wedding morning unfortunately is dead. The bridesmaids flowers are also his gift.’

1926 Brown velvet wedding dress

As Edith Crawley mixed in High Society I presume she would have been influenced by the recent Royal Weddings and the Mountbatten wedding. When Edith was jilted at the altar earlier in the 1920s she was portrayed carrying a small pretty posy of roses. Edith’s sister Lady Mary opted for a much more elegant sheaf of calla lillies when she married Matthew in 1920. Edith’s earlier bridal bouquet also seems a bit modern to me. I haven’t found any images of simple hand-tied posies in the 1920s. Mary’s bouquet is similar in style to the 1922 Mountbatten wedding.

1920s Downton Abbey Weddings

Edith is portrayed in the costume drama as a modern 1920s woman who kept up to date with the latest trends and fashions. Mary tends to wear clothes which are elegantly cut and less girly than Edith. I personally think Edith would have included some foliage to soften her bouquet and a different style to her rival sister.

One high class florist warned that elegant, simple sheaves of lilies `connoted a dignity, an austerity even, which is a personal characteristic to begin with. Brides who have other charms but lack this, should leave Madonna lilies alone.’

I actually rather like the sound of the `golden bouquet’ described in this article for Edith as I think it would suit her colouring. I may well have a go at making my own `golden bouquet’ based on this description.

Hartlepool Northern Daily MailTuesday 26 April 1927

1927 Wedding Flower Guide

Yorkshire Post and Leeds IntelligencerFriday 12 November 1926 

1926 Bouquet Fashion

Lincolnshire EchoSaturday 08 August 1925

1925 fashion for sheaf bouquets replacing round bouquets

These last two articles seem to imply that a fashionable lady such as Edith Crawley with her social status would have had a sheaf of flowers rather than a rounder shower bouquet.

This my version of an Elegant 1920s inspired overarm bouquet which in the light of my research would have been a good choice for Edith even if I do say so myself!

1920s inspired Calla Lily bouquet

1920s style Bouquet Picture by Jim Holden



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Chaste Snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring! 


`LONE Flower, hemmed in with snows and white as they
But hardier far, once more I see thee bend
Thy forehead, as if fearful to offend,
Like an unbidden guest. Though day by day,
Storms, sallying from the mountain-tops, waylay
The rising sun, and on the plains descend;
Yet art thou welcome, welcome as a friend
Whose zeal outruns his promise! Blue-eyed May
Shall soon behold this border thickly set
With bright jonquils, their odours lavishing
On the soft west-wind and his frolic peers;

Nor will I then thy modest grace forget,
Chaste Snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring,
And pensive monitor of fleeting years! ‘

William Wordsworth 1819 

Today I had a pleasurable outing to Welford Park to see the drifts of snowdrops amongst the woodland. I haven’t got many snowdrops in the garden as the squirrels seem to think the bulbs are nuts and dig them up! However the few I have mark the beginning of a new gardening year. I love the phrase in Wordsworth’s poem `Chaste Snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring, and pensive monitor of fleeting years.’ The dainty white snowdrop foreshadows Spring and the heralding daffodils and marks the end of one gardening year and the start of another.

Welford Park Small-1

Welford Snowdrops

The common snowdrop Galanthus nivalis runs riot in the woods at Welford.

Welford SnowdropsWelford Snowdrops


Welford SnowdropsWelford Snowdrops

Welford SnowdropsFebruary Small-3

February Small-4

Double snowdrop
Double snowdrop
Double snowdrop

Inspired by my visit I bought some snowdrop plants and enjoyed photographing them in a vintage scent bottle which seemed to capture the purity of the white snowdrops. Silver and clear glass work well with white flowers. I chose a Wintery blue/grey background to create an image reminiscent of a cold February day.

February Small-2


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February Posy

February Posy

I have some beautiful Hellebore flowers in bloom in the garden at the moment. The pretty nodding flowers can be hidden by the leaves in the garden. My aim this month was to produce an arrangement which showed off the blooms with their intricate markings and exquisite beauty. Once cut they do have a hard time taking up water and droop easily They can be quite difficult to arrange in a vase. However there are a few tricks that can help.

Using Hellebores in Floral Design Work

Cut the stems and then sear the ends in boiling water for a few seconds.

The age of the flowers play a very important role in the longevity of a cut hellebore. You need to wait until the ovary begins to swell and the stamens and anthers have fallen off. The more developed the seedpod the longer the flowers will last as cut flowers. For artistic purposes I have photographed my hellebore flowers with their stamens and anthers intact so you can see how beautiful they are. However 24 hours later these flowers were very droopy.



Hellebore flowers look wonderful simply floated in a bowl of water. This was last year’s `posy’ of the month.

Hellebore Posy Bowl

This year for my `February Posy’ I chose a vintage teacup to float a few blooms in. I love the water lily effect of the fancy, frilly pink flower. `

February Posy

February Posy

February Posy

January Posy

To ring the changes I decided to also use a vintage flower bowl which belonged to my Gran to show off my hellebore blooms. Whilst I was clearing my Uncle’s house I found this lovely Amber Cloud Glass Flower Bowl Set which was given to my Gran as a wedding present in 1937 by Ethel Marsh. Unfortunately I threw the plinth out as I didn’t realise it belonged to the flower bowl! Cloud glass is a form of pressed art glass, created by applying streaks of dark coloured glass to paler glass, which creates a random swirled, “clouded” pattern. The cloud glass technique was invented by George Davidson & Co in 1923.  The Pattern number is 1910SD, 6.75 inches diameter.

George Davidson Amber Cloud Glassware

George Davidson CatalogueGeorge Davidson Glass Catalogue 1931

Ethel Marsh was a colleague of Betty at the Liverpool Victoria Insurance offices. The stories my Gran recounted about the Liverpool Vic are more to do with the social side than actual work! Betty made many good friends whilst working there, many of whom came to her wedding. In the 1930s a married woman was not expected to work. When Betty got married she was expected to give up her job. During the Second World War women were needed to work whilst the men were away at war. After the war it was more socially acceptable for married women to go out to work. My Gran recounted going on trips away with the Liverpool Vic to Brighton. The offices would be closed and they would all go off to the seaside in a charrabanc. I have pictures of the girls on the beach. Winnie Holland seemed to be a bit of a goer and is showing her knickers whilst paddling!

Liverpool Victoria Outing. Edna, Winnie Holland and Mary Gallimore. Edna married Henry Atwell, Mary's married name was Dean.
Liverpool Victoria Outing. Edna, Winnie Holland and Mary Gallimore. Edna married Henry Atwell, Mary’s married name was Dean.
Work's Outing to the Coast
Work’s Outing to the Coast
Betty Berry and Winnie Holland enjoying a paddle
Betty Berry and Winnie Holland enjoying a paddle

I am gradually building up quite a collection of Hellebores. I would highly recommend them as they do provide some interest in the garden before the other Spring plants come out in a Blaze of Glory.

Helleborus x ballardiae ‘Candy Love’

Helleborus Winter Sunshine and Candy Love are virtually indistinguishable both having pretty creamy pink flowers.  Candy Love does seem to have slightly smaller flowers.

Hellebore Candy Love

Helleborus x ballardiae Gold Collection Cinnamon Snow

Pink buds open to creamy white flowers suffused with warm rose and cinnamon. Dark cinnamon rose petal  on the reverse side. The large blooms face outward.

Hellebore Cinnamon Snow
Hellebore Cinnamon Snow

Helleborus niger Mini Blanc

This one is an early bloomer and can often be seen in flower at Christmas time.

Hellebore Mini Blanc

There is an unknown variety in bloom in our front garden.

White Hellebore

Helleborus Double Queen

Hellebore Double Queen


Helleborus × ericsmithii Ice Breaker Max

Large outfacing single creamy-white flowers, with a slight greenish tinge, appear in early spring.

Hellebore Ice Breaker Max

Helleborus  x  hybridus ‘Molly’s White’

Attractive green marbled foliage all year round with pure white flowers above the foliage. The white flowers turn to lime green with age from December through to early Spring.

Hellebore Molly's White


Hellebore orientalis Tutu

Pretty pale pink flecked flowers with double pleated dark burgundy anemone like centres that make a really eye-catching display over evergreen foliage from the end of December until Spring.This one is a such a beautiful frilly double form of Lenten Rose it really does remind me of a ballerina’s tutu.

Hellebore Orientalis Tutu

Helleborus (Rodney Davey Marbled Group) ‘Penny’s Pink’

Helleborus (Rodney Davey Marbled Group) 'Penny's Pink'

Hellebore Penny's Pink


I’d love to know if you have Hellebore flowers in bloom at the moment and if you have a favourite? I would also be interested to hear if you have used them in floral design work successfully.

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January Posy

January Posy

A couple of years ago I set myself the challenge of taking a photo of a floral arrangement I had made each month using my garden flowers. I’ve missed the challenge so I’m going to challenge myself to make a `Posy a month’ again.

Last time I used snowdrops for my January Posy. However this year there aren’t enough in bloom to sacrifice cutting for a posy. I’ve opted for primulas and violas. I had a lovely time in Country Market Antiques and Collectables at Chilton Garden Centre last week.  I was able to source vintage scent bottles and buy some plants for the garden at the same time. It’s my challenge so my rules are that I can buy new garden plants to use just as long as they end up planted in the garden after I’ve made my Posy!

Pretty pink posy It’s always pot luck what you find at vintage stalls. I was delighted with the two scent bottles I found together with a pretty ladies handbag mirror. The pink bottle was a bit of a challenge for flowers as it has such a small opening. However I think the few select pink primroses look very pretty with the addition of dainty maidenhair fern.  I chose the Adiantum spp. fern as it is a well known vintage house plant and was often used in bouquets in the Edwardian Era. It also brings out the green at the centre of the primula.


Maidenhair Fern by Ippy Patterson

illustration by Ippy Patterson


1912 smilax asparagus fern shower bouquet


Primula, primrose or polyanthus? 


The botanical name primula covers many different species including auriculas, primroses and polyanthus.  Primroses are derived from the native common yellow primrose (Primula vulgaris) and have lots of flowers on individual stems growing from the centre of the plant. Polyanthus (meaning ‘many flowers’) have a thick stalk with a bunch of flowers on it. My January Posy therefore includes flowers which can be called either primroses or primula but not polyanthus.

Primrose PosyVintage Handbag mirror

My other find was a crystal scent bottle. I was quite pleased with this as the opening was a bit larger for flowers.

January Viola Posy

I do like dainty violas in a pot outside the front door. They really are pretty, frilly and feminine flowers. For some reason I don’t like a pansy! Pansies seem to me to be the bigger, brasher elder brothers of the viola. I came to appreciate the markings and intricate details of violas when I painted this detailed watercolour using one of Anna Mason’s watercolours with wow tutorials.  If you fancy having a go at painting flowers in watercolour I highly recommend Anna’s course.

Anna Mason Viola Tutorial

Having finished the tutorial I went on to paint my own garden Viola purple picotee.

Viola Purple Picotee

Vintage Violas

January Posy



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A Feast of Ferns

Fern tablecentre

Whilst researching the history of Vintage Bouquets I have fallen in love with ferns. When I started investigating Edwardian bouquets I thought that Asparagus fern was the only fern the Edwardians used. However I have been amazed at the number of varieties of fern I have found in vintage photos and now know that Asparagus fern comes in many forms.

Guide to Ferns

Asparagus setaceus
Asparagus setaceus Common Names: asparagus fern, plumosa fern, plumosa, lace fern, climbing asparagus.

Fine, feathery, bristle-like, triangular green fronds on long twining stems.

1937 Bridal bouquet with Asparagus setaceus

Asparagus setaceus

1914 Bridesmaid bouquet with Asparagus setaceus

Asparagus setaceus



Asparagus virgatus
Asparagus virgatus Common Names: tree fern, broom fern.

Crown of dark green, feathery foliage on a straight slender stem; 40cm to 1m long. Delicate filler foliage.



Asparagus densiflorus (Foxtail)
Asparagus densiflorus `Myersii’ Common Names: Foxtail fern, Plume Asparagus, Asparagus De Meyers.

Long bushy, upright bright emerald green stems covered with tiny soft branches. Used to give line and height in deigns.  



Asparagus densiflorus Sprengeri
Asparagus densiflorus `Sprengeri’ Common names: emerald feather, emerald fern, basket asparagus.

Trailing, elegant main stems with clusters of narrow, emerald green, needle-like `leaves’. A useful trailing foliage in shower bouquets and as a feathery filler.

1937 Bridesmaid bouquet with Asparagus densiflorus `Sprengeri’

Asparagus densiflorus `Sprengeri’

1914 Bridal Bouquet with Asparagus densiflorus `Sprengeri’  and Asparagus setaceus

Asparagus setaceus and densiflorus-1



Asparagus asparagoidesSmilaxSmilax Garland
Asparagus asparagoides Common Names: smilax, bridal creeper, bridal veil creeper.

A climbing plant with twisting, wiry stems that can grow up to 3m long. Short branches of small, glossy, ovate shaped green leaves 1 to 7 cm long. It is traditionally used in garlands and swags. It is an excellent foliage for garlands as it is very flexible. Looks great in cascade designs and large bridal shower bouquets.



1912 smilax asparagus fern shower bouquet

1922 Bridesmaid Bouquet with Asparagus asparagoides

Asparagus asparagoides

Edwardian Wedding with Asparagus asparagoides foliage

Edwardian Wedding Group 4




Asparagus umbellatus
Asparagus umbellatus Common Names: ming fern, zigzag fern

A woody evergreen shrub with a soft fluffy appearance. This is deceptive as the stems are covered in sharp spines. The tufty needle-like leaflets are emerald green in colour. Excellent filler foliage for large arrangements. It can also be cut into small pieces for smaller table posies and wired work.   



Sticherus flabellatus Bouquet
Sticherus flabellatus Common Name: umbrella fern.

Slender, erect, woody stem with a terminal `umbrella’ of shiny, dark green, fan-like fronds. Useful for form and texture. Here it has been used to make a neat collar on a modern, hand-tied bouquet.



Rumohra adiantiformisRumohra adiantiformis

Rumohra adiantiformis Common names: leather leaf, leather fern

Triangular, lacy, shiny, dark green, leathery fronds with scalloped leaflets on both sides  of main stem. I have used it here to back a traditional carnation buttonhole.

Carnation buttonhole



Maidenhair fern
Adiantum Common Name: Maidenhair fern.

Distinguished by billowy fronds of delicate, green leaves shaped like miniature fans on thin black, hairlike stalks that connect to smooth, black main stalks.


1912 long streamers of pink satin ribbon


What an amazing variety of ferns! Asparagus setaceus has got a reputation for being old fashioned. I expect this was because it was rather overused in the past and in the 1970s was used ubiquitously in buttonholes with a carnation. However my research has shown me what an amazing variety of shapes and textures you can find amongst the fern family. I actually really like Asparagus setaceus. I think it is light and dainty and is useful to create length and texture. You do have to be aware of the thorns.

My Christmas wreath used Asparagus setaceus sprayed gold this year. I don’t normally like flowers and foliage `mucked about’ with as nature is beautiful enough. However I adored this dainty golden fern. I would love to create a trailing, shower bouquet with this golden foliage and antique pink roses.

Christmas Wreath

Back in the Summer I had the amazing time at a three day residential course with the very talented Sabine Darrell Flower School. Working in a team we created some amazing modern designs using ferns. I loved the fern filled green table runner we created. Katie Spicer of The Floral Alchemist provided us with a beautiful set of photos at the end of our stay.

Fern tablecentre

Fern tablecentre

Fern tablecentreFern tablecentreFern tablecentre

I also chose to use ferns as foliage in a couple of bouquets I made during my time with Sabine. If you compare these  bouquets with my 1970s and Edwardian inspired bouquets I think you will agree how versatile the humble fern can be. Really pleased that I could use my own Aspargus densiflorus `Myersii’ which is flourishing in a pot in our greenhouse. It really does look like it’s common name of `foxtail’. However the Asparagus setaceus is not looking so happy as it has gone quite yellow. I really do better with garden plants where I can shove them in the soil and let them fend for themselves. I do also have a few garden ferns which would look nice in floral design, but may be not the tree fern!

Edwardian Style Bouquet

1970s Wired Posy Small-20

Umbrella fern bouquetAsparagus setaceus bouquet

If you have any examples of ferns used to great effect in floral design I’d love to showcase them in another Blog post so do get in touch.


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Dating Edwardian Photos

1902 Austin Coom & Rosina Nelson-1

1900 Wedding of Austin Coom and Rosina Nelson

The Edwardian era is the period covering the reign of King Edward VII 1901 to 1910, and is frequently extended beyond Edward’s death to include the four years leading up to World War I. I have chosen two photos to look at which represent the very beginning and end of this period in history.

1914 Wedding

1914 Wedding of Albert Arnold and Florence Birch

 Dress Fashion

1903 Silhouette

The sleeves of the early 1900s wedding dress are much fuller as are the skirts. The older members of the 1900 photo are wearing tailor-made suits typically late Victorian/Early Edwardian. The sleeve caps are less puffy than the earlier leg of mutton. After 1898 sleeves reverted to a more modest proportion for tailor-made suits. Interesting that for bridal fashion sleeves were fuller.

1902 Wedding


The later Edwardian wedding dress has closer fitting sleeves at the forearm. The sleeves have lost the bloused fullness of the early 1900s. Late decade styles simplified dresses and brought about a slimmer silhouette, with less fabric in the skirts, foreshadowing the changes yet to be seen in the 1920s. It’s not possible to see the waistline. However waistlines tended to rise in the period 1908 – 1913, reaching Empire line by 1913.

1910 Wedding   

Edwardian Hats

The first decade of 1900 saw a variety of hat shapes. In my 1900 photo the mother of the bride is wearing a toque – a brimless hat which is worn high.

Edwardian Toque Hat

1900 Wedding Toque Hat

Dundee CourierTuesday 14 October 1902

1902 Wedding toque

In the Edwardian period it was quite common for bridesmaids to wear hats as shown by our two photos.

1900 Bridesmaid Hat

The bridesmaids hats are very different to the toque worn by the bride’s mother. They appear to have a shallow, wide crown reminiscent in shape to this Platter hat from the Early Edwardian period. The hats have been draped in ivory material and are sporting feathers and a brooch. It is difficult to date hats because women often remodelled hats with new trimming.

Edwardian Platter Hat 

A very useful book on fashion is Out of Style by Betty Kreisel Shubert. These illustrations are taken from her book. This is a valuable guide to vintage style and very helpful when trying to date family photos.

The hairstyle can also be important when dating pictures.  The pompadour was typical of the early Edwardian era. The style was revived as part of the Gibson Girl look in the 1890s and continued to be in vogue until World War I. Hair was swept upwards from the face and worn high over the forehead.

Ethel Spice

Early Edwardian Hairstyle

Our two photos don’t show examples of Edwardian Picture Hats. A Picture Hat was a woman’s highly decorated hat with a wider brim. and was a fashion continued from the Victorian Age. Picture Hats were worn high on the head and held in place by a hatpin. They were elaborately decorated with fabric, feathers and flowers. Our 1900 wedding hats don’t have the typical high crowns. The high pompodour hairstyles worked well with the style of these high-crowned hats.

Edwardian Hats

Edwardian Hat 3
Edwardian Hats 2
Early 1900

1900 Black Wedding Dress

1913 hats aigrettes

Framlingham Weekly NewsSaturday 04 January 1913

Aigrettes were used in the Edwardian period. An Aigrette is the tufted crest of the egret used to adorn hats and head-dresses. During the late 19th and early 20th century a fad for wearing fanciful aigrettes resulted in large numbers of egrets and other birds being slaughtered by plume hunters for the milinery industry. Ostrich feathers were also popular.

Edwardian Wedding Group 4


1910 Edwardian Hats

Later Edwardian hats became wider. As the Edwardian Era progressed the trim on hats decreased as the brim size increased. A Cart wheel hat was a wide brimmed circular or saucer-shaped design. It was made in a variety of materials, including straw or felt and usually had a low crown unlike the earlier picture hats.  Typically it was worn at an angle to show off the curve of the brim, rather than being worn at the back of the head. The cartwheel hat became popular in the years leading up to World War I. They could be covered in velvet, taffeta or silk and had more modest decoration than previously.

Cartwheel Hat

Downton Abbey Hat 1

Cartwheel hats required a different hairstyle. The hair was drawn more to the side with less height. This style was secured with long hat pins up to 12 inches long.

Late Edwardian Hairstyle
Edwardian Wedding Group 4
1909 Hat


The movement toward smaller hats began around 1913 where hats still had high crowns but smaller brims. Straw boaters, small top hats and mini versions of picture hats were very common. High crown hats were worn often sporting a bow and with more modest hairstyles. Our 1914 bridesmaids are wearing more modest hats of the Era.

1914 Wedding Hat
1913 Smaller Hats

Edwardian Accessories

A typically Edwardian accessory is a bar brooch or locket brooch worn at a high neckline. Both our 1900 and 1914 weddings show typical brooches of the Era.

1900 Bridesmaid Hat

1914 Wedding Choker



Edwardian Gold Bar Brooch

I found these examples of inexpensive gold brooches from the turn of the century in the book Understanding Jewellery by David Bennett and Daniela Mascetti.

It seems very likely that the brooches I inherited are of this Era as they are very similar in design.

Bar Brooch
Bar Brooch
Bar Brooch

In our 1900 photo the necklines are very high with no neck exposed. At the end of the Edwardian Era necklines were slightly lower. One of the ladies in the 1914 photo looks  like she is wearing a velvet choker. As high necked blouses gave way to a new fashion for slightly lower necklines the velvet choker appeared.

1914 Wedding Choker

1914 Wedding Corsage

The 1914 bridesmaids are modelling typical large Edwardian corsages instead of bouquets. A corsage originally referred to the bodice of a woman’s dress. Since a bouquet of flowers was often worn in the center of the bodice, the flowers took on the name “corsage.” Our modern sense of the corsage comes from the French “bouquet de corsage,” meaning “a bouquet of the bodice.” Corsages are made from a small bunch of flowers or a single bloom. The corsage was originally worn at the waist or the bodice of a dress.

I have written a more detailed blog post about Edwardian Bridal Bouquets. The Edwardian Era brought about a complete change of bouquet style from the neat Victorian Posy. In the above 1900 wedding the bouquets are still fairly round and neat in shape. Flowers with long stems and trailing plants became available at the flower market and the Edwardian Shower Bouquet became popular. This was characterized by long showers or trails of fern. Our 1914 bouquet is a neat wired shower bouquet by comparison and included a large statement Calla lily and Asparagus densiflorus and Asparagus setaceus ferns. The wedding was an early Spring wedding and the corsages seem to include Spring narcissi. The bride is wearing a traditional veil and wreath of orange blossoms in her hair.

1914 wedding

Edwardian Wedding Group

Some of the 1914 ladies are wearing shirt collars with either a tie, floppy artist bow or tie neck cravat with stick pin bar brooch. This was a typical later Edwardian look and was much more functional for all types of occupations.

1914 Wedding Choker

1905 School teacher

At the beginning of the century women wore the S-Bend corset, which was much more restrictive. The corset pushed the bosom forwards and the bottom backwards and constricted the waist to make it as small as possible.

S Bend Corset

Another clue in the 1914 photo is the boys wearing Edwardian Eton collars. I found a really useful site called the Photo Detective by Geoff Caulton and some of my information has been sourced from there.

Eton Collar
Eton Collars

1914 Wedding

I hope you’ve enjoyed my research. If you have any Edwardian  family photos I’d love to see them and maybe even replicate another Edwardian Bouquet!

Edwardian Style Bouquet









Edwardian Inspired Flowers

Edwardian Style Bouquet

I have no photographs of my great grandma’s wedding or bridal bouquet.  However I thought it would be interesting to research what flowers were available when Ethel Spice married in 1913 and then make my own version based on my research.

Ethel Spice

Patsy Smiles - florist Picture by Jim Holden

I have looked at original newspaper reports of Edwardian weddings and looked at wedding photographs from the Era.

Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield HeraldSaturday 01 June 1912

1912 shower bouquet roses fern

Edwardian Wedding Group 3


Dundee Evening TelegraphTuesday 04 June 1912

1912 smilax asparagus fern shower bouquet

Edwardian Wedding Group 6

Edwardian Wedding Group 5

Cheltenham Looker-OnSaturday 07 June 1913

1913 blue dress pink roses


1902 Wedding of Austin Coom and Rosina Nelson

1902 Austin Coom & Rosina Nelson-1


Edwardian Bridal Bouquets

The Edwardian Era brought about a complete change of bouquet style from the neat Victorian Posy. In the above 1902 wedding the bouquets are still fairly round and neat in shape. Flowers with long stems and trailing plants became available at the flower market and the Edwardian Shower Bouquet became popular. This was characterized by long showers or trails of fern. The shape was large and loose.The shower bouquet was made on a moss ball. Sphagnum moss was made into a ball about the size of a golf ball and into this was poked a long hairpin-like wire. Every flower or piece of foliage was then mounted onto a suitable wire and the wires were then made into a handle. Late Edwardian bouquets were enormous. They were at least 40 cm in diameter at the top with three or more trails of asparagus plumosus reaching almost to the ankles. Hanging amongst the trails would often be roses or carnations. Stephanotis and lily of the valley were also sometimes interwoven. The trails were bound together with binding wire. Some florists used green silk-covered wire. Gutta tape wasn’t used in Edwardian times.

The other style of bouquet which was popular was a tapering, long arm sheaf. These were usually made with longiflorum lilies (otherwise known as bridal or trumpet) or with arum lilies. Often the stems were bound with ribbon, although they were sometimes left unbound. This was the precursor of the stylised arum lily sheaf popular in the 1920s. Miss Mason is noted to have a sheaf of lilies and pale pink carnations in 1913.

Naval Wedding 1914

Edwardian Bridal Flowers

The most popular bridal flowers were roses and Malmaison carnations. Ivory or white flowers were still a favourite for the bride’s bouquet. Bouquets often contained one or two varieties of flowers, but you didn’t tend to have mixed flower bouquets. A wide variety of flowers were available, but fashion dictated that flowers should be of the same kind. It was considered vulgar to mix flowers. Only with the publication of Constance Spry’s first book, Flower Decoration, in 1934 did the idea of `mixed’ flowers become acceptable. Flowers arranged in the house were largely single varieties. Gertrude Jekyll felt two flower arrangements could be tolerated but only by those with a keen and well trained color eye. In the History of Flower Arranging by Julia Berrall she says `Flower arranging suffered from over-simplification. One dozen carnations and some asparagus fern, placed in a tall cut-glass vase, sum up the state which flower arrangements had reached.’

From my research I was amazed at the number of references to named varieties of garden roses. When I got married I was advised that `garden roses shouldn’t be used in a bridal bouquet as they are not bred for the cut flower trade.’ I thought this was such a shame. Roses grown for bridal bouquets are now often bred on a large scale to maximise stem length and longevity, but they often lack the beautiful fragrance of garden blooms. David Austin is one rose breeder who is working hard to reverse this trend. It is difficult to breed flowers for both scent and lasting power. The oils that provide the scent have the effect of breaking down the flower more quickly than in roses without scent. David Austin English Cut Roses have the beauty of an English garden rose although they are produced under glass. When I got married I would have liked to have chosen roses for my bouquet which I could then grow in my garden as a beautiful memory. Apart from commercially grown David Austin roses there are a new wave of British Flower growers who grow flowers to be used in floral design work. I wish I’d known about them when I was getting married.

Dorothy Perkins Roses (Wichurana)

The Dorothy Perkins rose was the very first rose to be named after a person.  Jackson and Perkins was a company formed by Charles Perkins (1840 – 1924) and his father-in-law, Albert Jackson (1807 – 1895) in the USA. Charles Perkins had a Grand-daughter named Dorothy. Miller who worked for Jackson and Perkins developed this clear pink rambling rose in 1902 which was named after her.

The Dorothy Perkins rose went on to win first prize at the Royal National Rose Society in 1908. She was bred from the Wichurana roses which are very vigorous ramblers. Peter Beales still sells Dorothy Perkins with her colourful cascades of clear pink flowers.

Dorothy Perkins Rose

Dorothy Perkins Rose 2


1912 Dorothy Perkins roses carnations fern

Catherine Mermet Roses

The Catherine Mermet rose was introduced in 1869 by Guillot. This is a pretty double tea shaped rose, light pink colour and is very fragrant. Catherine Mermet was grown as a greenhouse variety, but can now be kept as a garden rose. A white rose was developed from Catherine Mermet called `the Bride’.

Catherine Mermet

1912 Catherine Mermet rose bouquet

Nephetos Roses

The Nephetos rose was often called the wedding rose. She has creamy buds opening up to blowsy white flowers and a delicate tea scent. This highly scented old climber was very popular in Edwardian wedding bouquets and was introduced as a French tea rose in 1889 by Keynes Williams & Co. Nephetos roses need cosseting in colder areas and are better placed in a warm position or under glass.


Nephetos Rose

1912 Nephetos roses and asparagus fern


`The Rose, it’s history and how to cultivate it’  – J. Johnstone 1897

Nephetos Hybrid tea rose 1897

Edwardian bridal roses tended to be white or pale pink. However I have found a few references to crimson roses. This article shows that this was a new idea as generally speaking white flowers were favoured as they symbolised purity and innocence. Interesting that coloured flowers are beginning to come in.

Yorkshire Evening PostThursday 01 May 1913

Crimson Roses 1913


Malmaison Carnations

Carnations have gone out of favour largely due to the wide availability in supermarkets at competitive prices. However they were viewed completely differently in the Edwardian Era. Malmaison Carnations date back to the 1850s.  They were originally bred in France in 1857, and because of their quartered flowers looking similar to the bourbon rose, Souvenir de la Malmaison, they were named Malmaison Carnations.

Souvenir de la malmaison rose

Malmaison Carnations (Dianthus) were richly clove scented and were prized for cutting. There were 40 cultivars in the carnation’s heyday and sadly now only five remain. I found these on the Allwoods Nursery Website.

Duchess of Westminster pre 1902

Duchess Of Westminster Pre 1902

Old Blush Pre 1857

Old Blush Pre 1857

Princess of Wales 1876

Princess of Wales 1876

Thora 1898

Thora 1898

Marmion Pre 1912

Marmion Pre 1912

The Edwardian Era takes it’s name from Edward VII. His wife Queen Alexandra made the Malmaison carnation fashionable.

Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping GazetteWednesday 12 June 1912

1907 Malmaison carnations and Queen Alexandra

They were, and still are, a real challenge to grow. They are prone to viruses, red spider mite in summer and damping off in winter. Malmaison carnations were cherished Edwardian flowers, grown for their strong scent in walled garden greenhouses. They were used as cut flowers for country houses until the Second World War. In my Great Grandmas time a vase of Malmaisons would demonstrate the owner’s social and economic position in life unlike today when they tend to be viewed as cheap `garage flowers`. Looking at newspaper articles I have found that carnations were often used in bridesmaids’ shower bouquets or carried by the mother of the bride.  I must admit I have become quite fond of them. They do smell amazing and they can last for several weeks in the vase.

Edwardian Bridal Bouquet Foliage

Shower Bouquets of the Edwardian Era were large and trailing. They often had yard long trailing greenery of fern. Whilst researching this Era I have been amazed at the number of varieties of fern which were used. I have found at least 5 varieties of asparagus fern!

Dundee Evening TelegraphTuesday 04 June 1912

1912 smilax asparagus fern shower bouquet


Asparagus asparagoides. Common names bridal creeper, smilax, bridal veil

Asparagus setaceus

Asparagus setaceus. Common names asparagus fern, plumosa fern, asparagus plumosa

Asparagus densiflorus (Foxtail)

Asparagus densiflorus Common names foxtail fern, plume asparagus

Trailing Ribbons

The Edwardians loved bouquets with trailing ribbons. Ribbons streamed out of the bouquet featuring knots along their length which were known as `Lovers knots’ or Bridal Laces. They were meant to represent promises from the Groom. Interestingly I thought the ribbons would have always been white in colour. However my research has found pink ribbon trails and even electric blue! How very daring!

Western TimesWednesday 10 June 1914

1914 Electric blue ribbons and malmaison carnations

Western TimesFriday 21 June 1912 

1912 long streamers of pink satin ribbon


Having researched the period I was in two minds about what kind of bouquet my Great Grandma Ethel Spice would have had in 1913. Ethel’s father George Spice was a market gardener and worked for Greenwood’s florists in Clapton. The first florists were market gardeners and nurserymen and the Edwardian Era saw the rise of the market garden.

George Spice

Owen Greenwood

Part of me feels that Ethel would have had a bouquet provided by her dad with flowers he grew himself. Whilst Malmaison carnations, roses and lilies were the most popular and stylish flowers for wealthy households, many Edwardians had a love for modest cottage garden flowers. There was a developing trend for flowers to be used in a style more sympathetic to the plant’s growing characteristics. The neat Victorian concentric bands were no longer in fashion and the rise of the Arts and Crafts Movement favoured a more naturalistic style. For fun I made a `Market Garden Bouquet’ for Ethel. I included lots of trailing ribbons and used dahlias grown on a Cutting Plot. I also used myrtle which is often used in bridal bouquets as it symbolises `Endless Love’.

Patsy Smiles - floristPicture by Jim HoldenPatsy Smiles - floristPicture by Jim Holden

Patsy Smiles - floristPicture by Jim Holden

However much as this bouquet was enormous fun to make I really don’t think it would be Ethel’s cup of tea. Photos show her to be a typical demure Edwardian lady. I know Ethel loved roses as I have a picture of her in later life standing by her roses, looking very proud of her efforts.

Ethel Spice

Ethel Spice

Ocean Mikado Spray Roses

I decided to make a more typical Edwardian bouquet with pink roses, lots of trailing fern and streaming ribbons. Although this type of bouquet would have been made with a moss ball I was after the look and not an exact replica. Having gathered together my materials I wired all the roses first. I used modern pink roses, but chose ones which I felt would look authentic in photos. If you would like to see how to wire a rose do check out my Blog Post on making a traditional wired rose buttonhole.


Rose Buttonhole


I then wired my chosen foliage. I’d opted for Asparagus setaceus, ivy and Asparagus densiflorus. Each frond or leaf was individually mount wired and then made into long branching units. I made sure I had plenty of variety of length.

Wiring Techniques-6
Single Leg Mount

Edwardian Style Bouquet


I then started to construct the bouquet. In the same manner as I had made my 1970s wired posy I made a handle by binding the stems together with silver reel wire. I set the overall shape of the bouquet with long stems for the trail and stems either side to set the width. Shorter stems were attached at the top and slightly bent back to form a return. I then infilled with the flowers trying to create the shape I had seen in photographs. The wires were made into a ribbon handle and I included lots of ribbon streamers with lovers knots. I loved the finished bouquet, although Mr Smiles felt it was a bit messy and preferred the neat 1970s posy!

Edwardian Style Bouquet


The construction took several hours to wire all the components for the design. However I must say it was surprisingly light for such a big bouquet.


Having photographed my design I then wanted to make a watercolour to add to my art work of vintage bouquets. I was rather overwhelmed with inspiration and source material for my painting!

Edwardian Style Bouquet

Edwardian Bouquet Small-18

Surrounded by the bouquet and numerous photographs I decided to use pen and wash rather than go for a neat accurate replica. I felt that I already had a decent photograph so wanted to produce my own artistic interpretation of this Edwardian design. The bouquet has quite a formal construction, but gives the impression of something loose and unstructured. I tried to convey this looseness in my finished work. I hope you like it!

Edwardian Style Bouquet Painting Small-2

You might also like my Blog Post about Ethel’s Weddding in1913.

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