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Vintage Designers We Love


Priscilla Kidder
Female Founder of Priscilla of Boston TM
This page is for appreciation of the designer and educational purposes only- 

 


"Gowns by Priscilla of Boston for the White House Wedding of Tricia Nixon."

Photograph by Harry Benson for Life Magazine

 


At Left: From her Massachusetts Studio, Priscilla Kidder holds aloft the custom made banner of embroidery that will be sewn into the wedding gown of an American President's daughter.

This was the second Priscilla gown made for an American President's daughter. Luci Baines Johnson chose a Priscilla gown almost a decade earlier in 1966.  Both Brides knew, that the only choice for a venerable American made wedding gown was from Priscilla of BostonTM

 


At Right:
Priscilla Kidder personally escorted Tricia Nixon's wedding dress to the White House, with an armed escort of secret service agents.  A first class seat was purchased for the dress to ensure it's safe journey.  The story of the gown and the Priscilla of BostonTM company was a featured cover story in Life magazine in 1971.

an armed escort of secret service agents


History of Priscilla of BostonTM

The Luci Baines Johnson and Pat Nugent Wedding Party consisted of 10 bridesmaids, 12 ushers, matron of honor, flower girl and ring bearer. All created by Priscilla of Boston 1966


1974


1974


1981


1977


1977


1972

 

 

first classPriscilla Comins was born in Massachusetts in 1918, at the height of World War I. After finishing her education at the New England School of Design, she began her first a job at R.H. White's department store as a wedding dress model.  Eventually she was promoted to an assistant buyer in the R.H. White's Boston bridal department.  Bridal gowns became her passion.

During World War II, she met and married handsome James Norton Kidder, a decorated pilot in the Army Air Corps. James Kidder had received a bachelor's degree in economics from Harvard in 1937, and encouraged his wife to open her first bridal shop in 1945.  Her solo venture, called "The Brides Shop," was located on Bostonís exclusive Newbury Street.  The timing of the end of World War II and the post war demand for wedding gowns enabled Priscilla Kidder to prosper.  But it was her taste and sophistication that allowed her to excel as an American designer.

1959

1975

From the early onset, Priscilla's designs were elegant and Worldly.  She began to design gowns that were European couture inspired, cut from untraditional ideas and out of the box thinking without losing the important component of All-American wasp upper crust formality so prevalent in the romance of old Boston.

 In 1956, Priscilla was chosen to custom design the bridesmaids' gowns for Grace Kelly's fairytale wedding to Prince Rainier.  She was also responsible for the A-line shift and Watteau court train of French Alencon and English net worn by Luci Baines Johnson for her wedding in 1966 (shown at left and below.)  She also custom designed Julie Nixon's bridal gown in 1968 and played a part in Tricia Nixon's gown in 1971.

Priscilla of Boston 1966

Luci Baines Johnson's wedding gown featured a flowing nine foot long Watteau* court train that fell out from between her shoulder blades.  In contrast, her gown was a structured A-line shift, lined in heavy muslin.

Note how the gown barely brushes the ground and is slightly raised in front for a peek of shoe; a design element of the 60's.  *The Watteau gown, named because of Rococo painter Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684-1721) has a train that falls from between the shoulder blades rather than waist level.

Each Priscilla gown design heavily influenced prevailing wedding fashions.  When President Lyndon Baines Johnson's 19 year old daughter, Lucy, chose a Watteau for her 1966 wedding, the style quickly became a trend that lasted into the 1970's.

Priscilla was the first  of a few wedding gown designers (Maurer, Christos) to hand clip and place French and Belgian laces as a design element, often preferring them pieced apart rather than whole.  Over the years the usage of imported clipped lace over English net became her signature.  The work was time consuming and hands on, earning her a comparison to couture Dior by one journalist.

Above: Priscilla Kidder carries the Watteau Court train of Luci Baines Johnson up the steps of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C as Lucy walks arm in arm with her Father, American President Lyndon Baines Johnson.

photo courtesy: Life Magazine

 


Priscilla of Boston Gown 1966

this and other photos courtesy: Life Magazine

At Left: With LBJ standing by and Lady Bird helpfully extending a plate, Luci Baines Johnson cuts the 13-tier, 300 pound, swan adorned wedding cake at her White House wedding.  Her Bridesmaids wore pink gowns and veils!

Her wedding gown is sheer English net over white taffeta.  It was very likely lined in heavy muslin and the English net floated as a top layer.  The net was pieced with hand clipped French Alencon placed extensively in a repeating pattern, a specialty of Priscilla Kidder.  The extensive hand work is one of the reasons that her gowns still appear as beautiful today as the day they were created.

NEXT: John Burbidge: Top Designer for Priscilla of Boston

 

Resources: Life Magazine June 18th 1971- Life Magazine August 19th 1966
Modern Bride, The Bride Magazine, Brides Magazine 1949 to 1980
Additional Photography by Lauren Lavonne

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