The Little Black Dress – The Death of Mourning

Wedding Dress, 1890’s

This black silk faille wedding dress belonged to Elmina Love Hughes, born in Robertson County on a plantation close to College Station, TX.

Elimina (Ellie) Love was engaged to be married in the late 1890’s, and began making her wedding dress from material she ordered from Sears & Roebuck.  She chose the black material as a matter of practicality, because she planned to wear the dress for other occasions after her wedding.

On April 25, 1898 the Spanish-American War broke out, and Ellie’s fiancee volunteered to be in Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders.  They decided to postpone the wedding until after his return from the war.  During the war, Ellie’s fiancee sent numerous gifts from Cuba, among them a gold watch, opal ring, and opal pin.  After the war was over, her fiancee and two of his friends decided to go to Mexico before returning home.  After a long delay in communication, Ellie finally learned that he had been killed.

Ellie’s father was a land trader, and as a result moved his family around a lot.  In 1901, they moved from Sinton, Texas to Motley County.  Here is where Ellie met J. Henry Hughes.  They were married on January 17, 1903, presumably wearing a different dress.  Their daughter, Jane Love Hughes, was born February 10, 1905.  Unfortunately, when Jane was nearly three years old her mother, Ellie, died on Dec. 28, 1907, after giving birth to a boy, who also died.

Afterwards, Jane was raised by her aunt and uncle, Lillian Love Russell and J.B. Russell, since her father, J. Henry, was a rugged cowboy.  Ellie’s personal belongings were carefully stored way for safe keeping.  Among these items were this handmade wedding dress, and the gifts from Cuba.

As was the custom of the time, the black silk faille dress was completely lined with cambric, and all the seams were delicately overcast by hand.  The short bolero jacket with sleeves that bell at the cuff is edged with machine-made chiffon applique lace.  The satin under-sleeve is also edged in this lace.  The boned, standing collar of fine, silk chiffon is decorated with wave braid, accented with black, hand-sewn beads, and finished at the top with a double-ruffle of chiffon rushing.  The skirt is completely underlined with cotton twill, and interlined with heavy, black, 10″ crinoline to give flare at the bottom.  The lower skirt edge is also finished with brushed braid for protection.  The collar is detachable, and the dress has two others made to fit it to wear for different occasions and uses.

This dress is unique, indeed, and a perfect addition to this Little Black Dress exhibition.  The concept of black for practicality and as an every-occasion style is not a new one, even for the wedding day!

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