Several months ago, I received an email from one of my readers named Susan. Her mother, Frances Louise Ward, passed away several years ago. Among the remaining estate was a bridesmaid dress made by Antonio Castillo while he was employed by Elizabeth Arden. It had some damage to the white tulle, and she was curious about the materials he used so that she could properly clean and fix the dress.
Susan’s email details some of her mother’s history:
“The dress was a bridesmaid dress from my mother’s wedding 1948. She was one of NYC’s top models and Hollywood starlet so she had a big wedding…plus she married someone from a very aristocratic family. Also her wedding dress is in our storage unit and last time I say it a couple years ago , it was in perfect condition but in a box so it’s crinkled…it may be by Castillo also or maybe Dior since she modeled wedding dresses for Dior.”
“I attached photos of my mother ….one of her in her wedding dress! She had thousands of clothes and we had a huge sale in NYC in 2009…her name was Frances Ward when she was a Power’s model in the 40’s and 50’s. She started modeling at age 15.”
Some details surfaced about Ward’s wedding in a family scrapbook. The advertisement, above, for the Woodbury Soap Company chronicles her marriage to piano-heir Charles Kohler White. (It appeared in Life Magazine
on March 7th, 1949.) It reads:
“Wedding Bells Chime – sweet harmony as Frances Louise Ward weds piano-heir Charles Kohler White in St. Aloysius Church, Great Neck, Long Island. Charles beams with pride – Frances looks luscious. Her cream-smooth complexion? A, that’s Woodbury’s beauty trick. ‘It’s been a daze’ chuckles Charles, ‘since Frances danced into my life!’ Courtship kept him hopping. Yale! New York! Carolina plantation!”
Woodbury Soap Company featured similar advertisement throughout the 1940s to sell their soap. Each advertisement featured a newly wedded couple, telling the story of their romance and how Woodbury soap was a critical ingredient to their love story. (You can see similar advertisements here
Ward was a beauty, and graced the cover of Glamour Magazine in 1944, below. Dubbed “The Career Issue”, landing this cover must have been quite the honor. The image was taken at the height of World War II, a time during which many women flooded the workforce. Men were fighting the war, leaving many vacancies across various industries. For the first time, women from every socioeconomic status could earn their own money in any industry of their choosing, without shame, discouragement, or contempt. Prior to the war, women were not encouraged to work. Gender roles were much more ridged. There were only a few types of careers that a woman could pursue, such as teaching, nursing, or fashion-related work. Other choices were frowned upon or impossible to obtain. During the war, this perception began to shift. Women were encouraged to join the workforce, primarily in male-dominated industries, as a form of patriotism. The need to replace the workforce was critical to win the war and keep the economy intact.
Many thanks go Susan for sharing these great images of her mother. She is currently working on conserving the Castillo dress and will provide some photos when she is finished. If you have any additional information on Frances Louise Ward, please leave a comment.