Mary Chamberlain & Fashion

Mary Chamberlain had a great interest in fashion and throughout her life clothes were of importance to her.  As the wife of a prominent politician she attended a large number and range of social functions for which the ‘correct’ dress was necessary.

She had a favourite couturier, Charles Worth of Paris. The firm was founded in 1858 by Charles Worth who was English, and the business was continued by his sons.  Mary dealt with ‘Monsieur Jean’ on her frequent visits to Paris to order new clothes. She arrived in England from America in December 1888 as a young bride of twenty four already well equipped with Worth dresses. The extremely generous trousseau her father, Judge Endicott, had provided her with included seven Worth dresses. There were two dinner dresses, one white and silver satin  and the other of green silk, three ball gowns of lilac, pink and white tulle, a light blue brocaded tea gown and high necked ‘At Home’ silk dress, with matching slippers and stockings for all the outfits.  These were probably chosen from sketches and fabric samples sent from Paris to the shop of Mrs Donovan in Madison Avenue New York who as well as selling her own designs sold Worth dresses.

From the time Mary lived in England she generally went in person to the salon in Paris to choose patterns and fabrics, and for fittings. Her first visit to Worth in Paris was on December 5 1880 where the Chamberlains spent a week en route to their honey moon in the Riviera, and Mary had the final fittings for the trousseau dresses. Her wedding dress however, was not from Worth but probably from Mrs Donovan of New York. It was a grey camel hair travelling dress worn with a dark grey velvet bonnet. The following year when the Chamberlains visited Egypt she wore this dress when visiting the ladies of the Sultan’s harem and they were amazed by its simplicity.

Photograph of Mary Chamberlain, 1893, wearing court dress by Worth, the gift of George Peabody Gardner 1958, Peabody Essex Museum 129162