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Object: Wedding dress

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Title Wedding dress
Production Carosa (fashion designer), 1952, Italy
Caracciolo Ginetti, Giovanna, circa 1950, Italy
Medium summary Wool gaberdine lined with wool hopsack; with cord work embroidery executed on raw silk panels
Materials wool, silk
Classification wedding dresses
Technique machine sewing, embroidering
Dimensions Other: x 1495mm (Length)
Centre Back: x 1720mm (Length)
Other: x 790mm (Length)
Other: x 457mm (Length)
Credit line Gift of Mary-Annette Hay, 2007
Registration number GH015668

An Italian gown

This stunning medieval-style gown was designed by Italian high fashion house Carosa, which was founded by Princess Giovanna Caracciolo Ginetti (1910-1983), who employed a range of talented young designers such as Patrick de Barenttzen, Mario Vigolo, Angelo Tarlazzi and Pino Lancetti.

Carosa was a major influence on Italian fashion in the 1950s when the country’s fashion industry was emerging on the international stage following the devastation of World War II. Highly decorated Italian gowns became particularly popular with American film stars and, as a result, had a major influence on American designers for Hollywood.

The luxurious woollen fabric and the gown’s exquisite cord-work embroidery were trademarks of Italian-designed garments after World War II. Embroidery, in particular, had long been an Italian craft, and was practised with great skill at this time.

A parade of international fashions

This gown was included in a parade of international wool fashions organised by the International Wool Secretariat (IWS) in London in 1952. Bernard (Bunny) Woodhams of the Hamilton department store H & J Courts, saw the gown and pressed Mary-Annette Burgess, Promotions Office at the New Zealand Wool Board to try and procure it for New Zealand. The IWS freuqently supplied the New Zealand Wool Board with couture gowns to use for promotional parades and displays. She had joined the New Zealand Wool Board as Promotions Officer in 1948 and made it her mission to ‘take the wonder of wool to the nation’. She became familiar with every aspect of the wool industry, both in New Zealand and internationally, and gained the confidence of farmers, fashion designers, and retailers alike.

Mary Annette remembers: ‘I wrote to the IWS and said "There is one very important costume … how can we get it?"’ Eventually, the Italian office of the IWS, informed her that they would send her the gown at an affordabel price once it had completed a tour of the US.

Mary Annette included the gown in The Inspiration of Wool (1953), Nelson Wool Week (March 1955) and All Eyes on Wool (1955).

A real bride

Mary-Annette Burgess wore this dress for her marriage to Donald Hay in 1953. In the months leading up to her wedding, there was much media speculation about what Mary-Annette would wear. She didn’t disappoint.

The Wool Board permitted her to borrow the only wedding gown in its collection and, for ‘going away’, a Hardy Amies suit which is also in Te Papa's collection (GH015669). Mary-Annette warned her fiancé not to read the newspapers in case he learnt what she was to wear. Her bridesmaids wore gowns inspired by another garment in the Wool Board collection – from English fashion house Worth.

Related information

Disclaimer: This information was created from historic documentation, and may not necessarily reflect the best available knowledge about the item. Some collection images are created for identification purposes only and may not be of reproduction quality. Some images are not available due to copyright restrictions. If you have information or questions about objects in the collection, contact us using our enquiry form. You can also find out more about Collections Online.