Bull Dress Exhibit at the Old State House

  • May 19, 2015 - May 20, 2016
  • Times: From: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
  • Location: Old State House
  • 206 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02109

‘It's all about the dress,' as wedding planners even in the colonial era were evidently already well aware.  In fact, Boston fashionista Elizabeth Bull took the precaution of designing her own colorful, hand-embroidered silk wedding gown several years before she even had a groom in mind.  And what a dress it turned out to be!

"America's colonial-era school-girls were remarkably fashion-forward designers," observed Patricia Gilrein, Collections Manager at the Bostonian Society. "They were keenly aware of European fashion trends, and adapted these styles to suit their purposes."

Elizabeth Bull started designing, sewing, and embroidering her China silk gown when she was only 14, while still in school.  Embroidery was often undertaken by young women at the time, to practice and perfect the art of needlework, but Bull proved to be one of the most extraordinary embroidery artists of her day.  By 1734, she had already been at work on her gown for several years, when she met a handsome stranger, Roger Price, the Rector of Trinity Church in Boston.  At the time, Rev. Price was busily making preparations to make his escape from the uncivilized colonies, to assume a more gracious lifestyle in England.  But then he met Miss Bull. His ship sailed without him, and within a year he accompanied Elizabeth Bull as she walked down the aisle wearing her embroidery masterpiece at their wedding in King's Chapel.

The colorfully-embroidered, one-of-a-kind Elizabeth Bull gown, a stunning example of Boston's earliest haute couture, will be placed on temporary display from Wednesday, May 13, through the end of this year, at Boston's Old State House.  Exhibition of the Elizabeth Bull gown was made possible by a generous gift from an anonymous donor.

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