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The Trousseau

The ceremony is not the only enterprise that requires new clothes: a well-prepared bride will have assembled a trousseau for her new married life.  The exact contents of a trousseau can vary from a single going-away outfit to honeymoon-appropriate undergarments to a full wardrobe, plus household linens.


This is an expense for the bride and her family, and potential profit for businesses happy to provide these necessary materials. Shops, from big department stores downtown to the small neighborhood tailors and linen stores, offered their trousseau-worthy wares until the late 20th century; today, the prevalence of gift registries, and the fact that more people have lived in their own household prior to their marriage, mean that the importance of the traditional trousseau has diminished.

Read a Just Married! "extra" about a 1903 nightgown - a key part of the trousseau!

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Trade card for Nathan Gutman’s shop, 1882, advertising “the largest stock of fine goods in the City,” including “Special facilities for Wedding Trousseaux.” 


Gift of Linda Lapides.  JMM 2008.56.8

Pair of silk step-ins for the trousseau of Elizabeth Rosenfeld Kahn, embroidered with her name and new initial – Elizabeth K – by her mother Helen Rosenbaum Rosenfeld, 1947.


According to Emily Post (1922), the bride’s mother is responsible for buying as many pretty undergarments and at-home attire as possible, for “the various undress garments which are to be worn in her room or at the breakfast table, and for the sole admiration of her husband, are of far greater importance than the dresses and hats to be worn in public.”


On loan from Betsey (Elizabeth) Rosenfeld Kahn. L2016.16.2


Going-away outfits were once nearly as important to a fashionable bride as the wedding gown itself, and they were the first part of the trousseau to be publicaly displayed.

Newspaper accounts often described the bride’s end-of-event attire as a matter of course, along with the names of prominent guests and the couple’s honeymoon destination – yet another chance to show off the prospects of the newly-wedded couple. Today a bride might think first of comfort for her escape from the reception, but many still plan their first post-marriage outfit with care.


Traveling or going-away suit worn by Clara Strauss after her marriage to Benno Kohn, February 26, 1895.  This very fashionable suit was custom-made for the bride in Baltimore.


Gift of Eleanor Kohn Levy.  JMM 1991.86.1


Hat, gloves, and shoes – along with the store receipts from each – from the going-away ensemble of Phyllis Becker, June 30, 1968. These coordinating accessories were purchased from Montgomery County stores by the bride’s mother, several months before Phyllis’s wedding to Duke Zimmerman of Baltimore.


On loan from Phyllis Zimmerman. JMM L2017.8.1-.7 

Phyllis admiring her veil while wearing her going-away ensemble. 

Courtesy Phyllis Zimmerman. CP 2017.14.3

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