There was a time when a girl’s family began preparing for her marriage the day she was born. Over the years, her mother, grandmother, aunts and sisters would contribute to a collection of embroidered linens, lace and other handcrafted items that were stored in a marriage or “hope” chest until the day of her wedding. The contents of that chest – the items she would contribute to her new home – became known as the bridal trousseau, which translated literally, means “little bundle.”
When the standard dowry became more than what you could carry in a small bundle, the name became inadequate, but it stuck just the same.
The traditional trousseau might contain mattresses, feather pillows, satin quilts stuffed with wool, crocheted curtains, embroidered towels, house slippers, and dressing gowns for the bride and groom, as well as other personal and household items. In Victorian times, elaborate trousseaux containing thousands of dollars worth of dresses and accessories were a symbol of wealth and social standing.
LINENS AND LINGERIE
These days, thanks to the various shower and wedding gifts given by friends and family – and through a modern marvel called the bridal registry – most newlyweds will have everything they need (linens, appliances, china, silverware) for their new life together. So today, when you hear someone say trousseau, she’s usually referring to the clothes and lingerie a bride accumulates for her wedding, honeymoon and newlywed days.
But technically speaking, trousseau and registry aren’t always completely disparate terms. If her friends plan a lingerie shower, the bride might “register” or pre-select a few pieces at her favorite lingerie shop.
“We do get a lot of brides,” says Molly Roesler at House of Lounge, “but they don’t come in saying they’re shopping for their trousseau.”
“Occasionally, an older woman shopping with the bride, maybe her mother, might mention something about a trousseau,” says Roesler. “And the girl will give her mother a look like, ‘What in the world are you talking about?’ ”
But just because today’s generation of brides might not be familiar with the term, doesn’t mean they don’t want new lingerie for after the wedding.
“Our bridal chemises with lace accents and different designs are big sellers,” says Roesler. “And right now, everyone seems to want the two-piece baby-doll sets.”
Even the woman who has never worn anything other than a terry cloth robe around the house might want to have an old-fashioned peignoir set (a matching slip and sheer robe) to take on her honeymoon. If it’s something that makes her feel beautiful and bridal, it belongs in her trousseau. Some brides like to have a brand new nightie, sexy negligee or matching bra and panty set for each night of the honeymoon.
OUTFITTING HER FUTURE
The bride’s going-away outfit – what she wears as she and her new husband leave the reception for their honeymoon – is an important piece of the bridal trousseau, says Lisa Swords of Town & Country. Ah, but there’s much more to it than that.
“Brides have so many parties and wedding functions to go to, so they really do need several different dresses,” says Swords. “Added to all of the stress that comes with planning a wedding, all of that shopping can be overwhelming. So it really helps [when] they can get those things when they come in for fittings [for their wedding gowns].
“And because lots of couples choose tropical destinations for their honeymoon,” Swords adds, “we sell a lot of sundresses and halter dresses as well.”
Anything a bride buys for her honeymoon may be considered part of her trousseau, from sunglasses and swimsuits to footwear and resort-wear.
And as she embarks upon this much anticipated journey that marks the beginning of a new chapter in her life, the bride may ask herself, “Is there any better reason to buy that fabulous set of matching luggage I’ve always wanted?”
She might also decide to overhaul or freshen up her makeup bag, adding a new powder compact or a fresh tube of mascara and tossing out old lipsticks and eye shadows and replacing them with new colors.
And let’s not forget the bridal bubble bath. Because it’s the little indulgences that can make her feel pretty and pampered, she might want to pack a few new bath products such as expensive glycerin soaps, luxurious bath salts and perfumed body lotions. –Kara Nelson