On February 14 – a day for lovers, romantics and the young at heart, Patea Library Plus celebrated by inviting everyone to a Remembering Romance morning tea. Aotea Utanganui – Museum of South Taranaki contributed to the occasion by taking along a wedding dress from the collection.
Ruth Merrigan who wore the dress to her wedding in 1943 started the reminiscences off by recalling her special day. Her husband was working as a seaman on the Royal New Zealand Navy hospital ship Maunganui and had only three days leave. The wedding took place in St Luke’s Presbyterian Church in Oxford St, Patea. There are no photographs because film was rationed and they could not get any.
About thirty years later Ruth McKay was looking for costumes for the Hawera Players and Ruth Merrigan offered her wedding dress, which was gratefully accepted. It graced the stage in many productions and was even worn by Ruth McKay in a fashion parade. Eventually she donated the gown to the museum in 1997.
The gown is made from cream satin. The slim fit and simple styling would have suited the austerity of the times. The principal adornment is a series of self-covered buttons along the forearms and down the back. There is a delicate gesture to a train in a slight flare at the foot of the gown.
This elegant yet modest dress would have been fitting attire for a bride at that time. What makes it special to our collection is the story that belongs to it, of a young woman, still resident in Patea by the way, whose hopes and dreams of romance and married happiness were embodied in this wedding dress.
Edited version of a post which appeared on our original blog in March 2011.