Bedscape Designs
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The Dress She Never Got to Wear

The Dress She Never Got to Wear $500

Fiber: Women’s Silk Victorian Wedding Dress, paper, ink, organza

Rebecca Fricke

Polly Longsworth traces the affair of Austin Dickinson and Mabel Loomis Todd through the pairs’ communications in her book Austin and Mabel (1984). Right from the start of their friendship it is clear that the two had a lot to say to each other and about the world around them. This piece is meant to represent the volume (over one thousand letters and notes) and the intensity of their love notes. Although you cannot read the letters I’ve copied from Longsworth’s book in their entirety, you can get a sense of tone and content.

This is the wedding dress Mabel never wore. Austin never made arrangements to leave his marriage or Amherst and it is unclear to me whether Mabel would have left her husband for Austin since she seemed to sincerely love both men. But they did occasionally talk about what it would be like to leave the little town of Amherst and the unhappy Sue Dickinson.

I painted the trim of the dress because Mabel liked to paint her clothes. The crickets represent a cherished moment Austin and Mabel shared one evening in church and the Indian Pipes are significant because Mabel painted a picture of the flower for Emily Dickinson unaware Emily considered the Indian Pipe, “the preferred flower of life.”