Wedding dress & headpiece

Collection Highlights | Updated 3 years ago

A wedding dress in a display cabient
Caterina Vallesi's wedding dress
Image copyright of WA Museum

Caterina Vallesi wore this handmade wedding dress for her marriage by proxy in Porto San Georgio, Italy, in 1955.

Caterina’s brother-in-law was the proxy groom, standing in for husband Umberto who had migrated to Australia four years earlier. Caterina joined Umberto soon after the marriage. It was Italian custom for unmarried men who had already migrated to Australia to marry a woman from their village or region of origin. With few Italian women in Western Australia, often the only way to achieve an acceptable marriage was by proxy to a bride still in Italy. A number of Italian and Greek women migrated to Australia as proxy brides.

The dress has a fitted bodice and angle length full skirt of tulle over taffeta, with a viyella lining. Several layers of the wedding dress skirt were later removed to make a christening gown for Caterina’s daughter.

This wedding dress and head piece were on loan for the exhibition A New Australia; Post-War Migration to Australia from 1995 – 2009. They were donated to the Western Australian Museum by Mrs Vallesi’s daughters in 2009.

History Department collection