One Grandmother's Day - The 1920s Wedding

Louisa Amelia Jane Vintage Fashion Store

I've had a bit to say in the past about my maternal grandmother, Louisa Amelia Jane Silva (nee Smith) after whom my vintage store is named. Today I'm thinking about my other grandmother, Ella May Thompson (nee Earl). I never met Ella, she died before I was born. 

Yes, I know it was my grandfather's wedding too. But weddings seem to be so much more about the bride. I did know my Pop, Roland Timberlake Thompson. He stayed with us regularly when I was a child, and died when I was 12.

Here is their wedding photo, which hangs on the wall in my hallway. 

They were married in 1920. You can see that the fashion is very much still that of the war years, especially the fabulous button up shoes. I can't make out much of the detail of the dress, but it appears to have a square neckline, elbow length sleeves with lace edging and by the reflections in this and the other photo I have, I would guess the fabric is satin. Note the little wax flowers on the veil, worn close down over the brow. She is also wearing a heart shaped locket.

Pop is sporting a wing tip collar, no doubt a detachable stiff collar, a white bow tie and white gloves.

Ella was the daughter of a gold mine manager in Bendigo and most likely had a middle class upbringing. She played piano. She was a lady. 

Here is my favorite photo of Ella, as a young girl.

 She looks to be 13-14 in this photo, so that would make it 1905-1906. That is most likely a two piece dress she is wearing, her Sunday best.

Here she is a few years later with her family:

That's her at the back right. This photo would be 1911. 

And her wedding again. 

I have two souvenirs of this wedding.

Firstly, Ella's gloves.

They are in poor condition, soiled and torn. The way the points on the back of the gloves are stitched distinguishes them from kid evening gloves from later in the 20th century. I like to think they're soiled because she had fun at her wedding, but this is my fantasy. 

Here is the bride's hand drawn place card for the wedding. Presumably she made them for all the guests. It's quite large, about A5 size, and painted in silver.

Sadly, this wasn't to be a happy marriage, although they did manage to produce six children. Family legend has it that when their four year old son, also Roland,  was ill with diptheria in 1933, there was an argument about sending for the doctor. Ella wanted the doctor, any doctor, as soon as possible. Roland senior would only allow the Freemason doctor to be called and he wasn't immediately available. Sadly, little Roland died and Ella never forgave her husband. They did, however, manage to produce two more children after this date. Ella died in 1953.

After World War 1 ended in November 1918 people began the long journey back to normality. Many couples separated by war were reunited and able to marry. Many returned soldiers were too injured to marry or lead normal lives. Many never returned. A whole generation of men had been wiped out and many young women never married. The 1920s was a time of rebellion and celebration. Young people thought let's have fun while we can and forget the war years. Here are some wedding photos from the time.

This bride is wearing a robe de style, with side panniers.

From the mid twenties, hemlines became shorter and poses more casual. Unusually, this couple is actually smiling!


This dress in Louisa Amelia Jane is most likely from 1925-1928. Not only is it short, but it is also a robe de style with side panniers.

1920s vintage wedding dress robe de style with panniers

It belonged to an American lady called Gladys.

1920s Robe de Style Wedding Dress

And if you want more inspiration, here is some actual film footage of 1920s weddings:


Louisa Amelia Jane Vintage Fashion Store

1 comment

  • Michelle Campbell

    A very interesting read, Joanne. I only knew that little Roland died of diphtheria. I should have known about this seeing as they were my paternal grand parents as well. As a mother I too could feel her pain….

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