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AP photo/Journal Star, Nick Schnelle A bridal veil is displayed on a mannequin head at the Century of Beautiful Brides exhibition at Flanagan House Museum in Peoria. The exhibition features bridal finery from 1870 to 1970.
The Associated Press
PEORIA (AP) — When Samantha Zobrist viewed the wedding attire and accessories from 1870 to 1970 on display at the Flanagan House Museum, it appealed to her affinity for things of the past. The 28-year-old from Washington discovered some headpieces that looked as though they came from the same era — the 1930s or 1940s — as the one she will use in her vintage wedding come June — the one she bought from an antique store. “The old styles are very much back and alive in the younger generation,” Zobrist said. “I love going to antique stores and finding things that have been loved and cherished, versus finding something that’s been made cheaply overseas that anybody can go out and buy for a couple bucks that’s going to be tomorrow’s garbage right away.” A century of wedding garments and items have been preserved by the Peoria Historical Society and presented in the society’s new exhibit, “A Century of Beautiful Brides,” at the oldest standing residence in Peoria, built back in 1837. It is open to the general public on the first Sunday of April, May and June — otherwise available for private tours. The brick two-story home on Northeast Glen Oak Avenue with intricate iron railing that wraps around the porch is a portal into the past — decked out inside with various styles indicative of past codes of conduct, manners of being — a different pace of life. The long sleeves and high necklines recalled a time when women were expected to cover themselves from head to toe, while some of the detailing such as in the ample frills and lace harkened to a past tradition of hand sewing one’s wedding dress, according to Linda Herron, site manager for the Flanagan House Museum and a bridal seamstress of 30 years. “Back before we had Facebook and our smart phones, people sat in the evening and did embroidery and did fine hand stitched clothing,” she said. “Can you even imagine? I mean I can imagine because I do it, but their everyday clothes — they sewed every single thing. They cooked every single thing from scratch. And the other thing is — home weddings.” The extravagant phenomena that marriages entail nowadays were once much more humble affairs staged at home, complete with garden flowers for the bouquets and refreshments much like the punch and cake served in the Flanagan House — according to Herron. Such large-scale events tend to also come along with more pared down wedding dresses — a reflection of a more liberated style of dress for women with less emphasis upon modesty, according to Marilyn Leyland, former president of the Peoria Historical Society, who now guides house and trolley tours. “You cannot buy a dress today that has straps on it,” she said. “They’re all strapless. They’re all sleek — the mermaid look. They’re even talking about black as coming in for wedding dresses. It has been interesting in my life to realize how styles change.” Carol Donahue donated her mother’s wedding dress from 1937 and her own from 1968 to the historical society — now on display. The 69-year-old Peorian could not envision passing the garments down to younger generations. “The kids nowadays — who knows what they would choose for a wedding dress?” she said. “I doubt they would want to wear it.” There may be more than she thinks if olden styles are indeed coming into vogue as in the case of Zobrist’s vintage wedding.