In keeping for a summer wedding, the evening of Tuesday 27 December 1927 proved warm and sultry. All morning family and friends of the bride and groom, Muriel Beatrice Goddard and Percy Everett, spent time decorating Napier’s Trinity Methodist church. Built in 1876 this beautiful wooden church faces Clive Square and its surrounding gardens. The workers lovingly festooned the interior with flowers and decorated the pews with white satin ribbon bows. A final tender touch was the construction of a floral bell under which the couple would stand to pledge their wedding vows.
Just as twilight approached the wedding entourage arrived. Curious onlookers clustered on the footpath opposite the church at the edge of Clive Square, hoping to catch sight of the bride and bridesmaids’ dressed in all their finery. To the accompaniment of organ music, father of the bride, Charles Goddard, proudly escorted Muriel up the front steps, through the steeple doors and down the aisle into the arms of her waiting bridegroom.
Gasps of appreciation and admiration accompanied the couple’s journey as the congregation turned to get their first glimpse of the bride. Daringly dressed in the height of European and American fashion, Muriel had chosen a flappers style-wedding gown.
In the 1920s young women adopted a new style of clothing: less confining, simple in cut and meeting the needs of movement required for performing on the dance floor. Simulating the changing social standards behind the Flapper movement, women found freedom in these new styles. Dresses were no longer fitted garments: the silhouette was tubular, often outrageously coloured and highly decorated with beads, sequins and fringes
The Flappers’ fashion styles, pioneered by French designer “Coco” Chanel, represented the new social openness and free spirits of the era. Called garconne (boy) in French, this unconventional appearance aimed to make girls appear young and boyish: short hair, heavy makeup, flattened breasts, short dresses and straight waists were common features of this look.
For the edification of their readers, the Daily Telegraph newspaper recorded that Muriel’s knee-length, sleeveless dress was made of ivory chenille georgette material, the skirt decorated with layers of circular tiers of ivory silk fringe. Running down the front of the dress was a spray of handmade silver roses falling from the shoulder to the loose waistline.
At the back, fitted at hip level, was attached a large bow enhanced with silver tissue fabric and gathered with a stunning jewel. To complete her ensemble, as was fitting for a bride, Muriel wore a silver lace Dutch cap attached to which was a veil and train made of ivory embroidered tulle. In her arms, the bride carried a sheaf of highly scented Christmas lilies tied together with silver tissue fabric.
Accompanying Muriel were three bridesmaids each wearing dresses made of powder blue charmeuse with two tiered skirts of georgette edged with silver lace. A bolero bodice of silver lace formed a graceful cape. Each wore a Queen Anne cap with fans of silver lace attached to the back and they carried posies of apricot and mauve flowers to complete their toilettes.
After the ceremony, performed by Reverend Basil Metson, the bridal couple and congregation walked to the nearby Spanish Mission Foresters’ Hall in Dickens’ Street for the reception. As with the church, family and friends had decorated the room using colours of mauve, apricot and blue.
With the festivities at an end, Muriel and Percy departed on their honeymoon, adventurously choosing to travel by boat to Fiji. Their joint British passport, issued just before they left from Wellington, shows a photograph of Muriel wearing a cloche hat, shirt, tie and jacket – forever the Flapper.
This beautiful wedding gown (minus Dutch cap and veil), along with passport, marriage certificate, newspaper cutting and photograph is a very recent addition to the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust collection, kindly donated by a family member of Muriel and Percy Everett. It is proposed that Muriel’s wedding dress will go on display in several months’ time, replacing one of the gowns in the exhibition “Tender is the Night”.
24 February 2020
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