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JOHN AND CILE BURBIDGE WEDDING GOWN DESIGN COLLECTION, 1968-1985, 1998
#562

(0.75 cubic feet, 2 flat boxes, 1 (.5) DB)

by: Cathy Keen, December 2000 and revised by Susan Strange, January 2007

Biography

John Burbidge was a creative and prolific fashion designer for the Priscilla of Boston wedding gown company from the late 1940s to 1985. Burbidge, born in 1922, went to work for the Priscilla of Boston firm in 1948, after graduating from the New England School of Art and Design and serving for three years in the Army during World War II. He started out operating a button machine and gradually worked his way up to designing. His technique involved clipping photographs of models from magazines, laying tracing paper over the cut-out, and tracing the figure, onto which he added his design. After creating, in his words, "hundreds" of sketches and doodles, he would work out the details in muslin. Eventually he achieved status as Priscilla Kidder's favorite designer and was known for his use of certain features, such as bows, bustled backs, puffed sleeves and "star" bodices. The high point in his career with Priscilla of Boston was in 1971 when he designed the wedding dress worn by President Nixon's daughter Tricia at her White House wedding to Edward Cox. The design had a strong influence on wedding fashion, though the design used was never duplicated by the company. Since leaving Priscilla of Boston, Burbidge has made a second career designing and creating dolls in elegant historic costume, while Burbidge's wife, Cile Bellefleur-Burbidge, designs and creates elegant and elaborate wedding cakes.

Scope and Content

This collection is arranged in two series as follows. Series 1: Design Sketches consists almost entirely of design sketches John Burbidge made for wedding gowns manufactured by Priscilla of Boston between the years 1968 and 1985. The sketches are in pencil or color pencil, and occasionally ink. Also, there are, at the end of the collection, two articles about John Burbidge's wife's wedding cake business and packets of photographs of dolls in historic costume which Burbidge designed and created. The sketches have been arranged, as much as possible, in chronological order, but for several reasons this was difficult or impossible to do with certainty. John Burbidge did not date his designs, though most sketches have design numbers on them. Some sketches have two numbers on them, and to add further complication, many design numbers were re-used in later years. Further complicating the organization, the company did not consistently use certain numbered "series" for the same design lines. For example, during one year the 1500 series would be used for gowns in the Priscilla Boutique line, another year series 1600 might be used. Dating was done by comparison with advertising tear sheets and publicity photographs found in the Priscilla of Boston Collection, (ACNMAH #557) and with the illustrated seasonal style books which also are found in the Priscilla of Boston Collection. After lengthy research, only a portion of the designs were dated. These are indicated in this finding aid by italics and/or bold lettering for design numbers. Numbers which are italicized indicate designs which were dated by comparison with tear sheets or publicity photographs in the Priscilla of Boston Collection. Numbers which are in bold lettering indicate designs which were dated by comparison with illustrations in the style books located in the Priscilla of Boston Collection. Those which are italicized and in bold lettering indicate designs which were dated by comparison with design descriptions in the style books located in the Priscilla of Boston Collection. Those which appear in neither bold lettering nor italics, but which were put into folders with specific dates, were put there because they had been clipped or stapled together by Burbidge and were assumed to be from the same time period as those they were attached to. Design lines are specified, when possible, after 1976, when the style books first appear in the Priscilla of Boston Collection. Order that is not numerical was used in cases in which Burbidge had some sketches stapled together. As much as possible, sketches were kept in his order.

Series 2: Oral History Interview, 1998

John and Cile Burbridge were interviewed in March 1998 at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History by Claudia Kidwell and Priscilla Wood, of the museum's costume collection, and Cathy Keen of the Archives Center. The Archives Center focuses on John Burbridge's days at Priscilla of Boston.

Provenance

This collection was donated to the Archives Center by John Burbidge in 1996 through Claudia Kidwell, curator in the Division of Costume, National Museum of American History.

Container List

Box Folder  

    SERIES 1: DESIGN SKETCHES, 1968-1985
1 Sketches for 1968 designs: Nos. 903, 904, 907, 911, 913-915, 917, 920.
2 Sketches for 1971 designs, Series 8000, Bridesmaid. Nos. 8000-8010, 8012-8014, 8016, 8018, 8020, 8022, 8024, 8025.
3 Sketches for 1971 designs, Series 1900, Priscilla Boutique. Nos.1900-B, 1902-B.
4 Two sketches done for Tricia Nixon, 1971. One (which is annotated "Triss") is an early design for Tricia Nixon's wedding gown. The other can be seen worn by Tricia Nixon in a newspaper photograph.
5 Sketches for Spring/Summer 1974 designs, Series 500, 1500, 5000. (Nos. 506, 507, 560 and 1501 match photographs in the Priscilla of Boston Collection.) Includes nos. 504, 506, 507, 508, 510, 512, 560, 1500, 1501, 1502, 1503, 1508, 1509, 1510, 5001, 5003, 5007, 5008, 5009, 5011, 5025, 5037, 5038.
6 Sketches for Fall/Winter 1974 designs, Series 700, 1700. Includes nos. 700, 701, 704, 1705, 1706, 1703, 1707, 1708.
7 Sketches for 1974 designs, Series 6000. Includes nos. 6020, 6021, 6022, 6023, 6025, 6025 (number is repeated but design is different), 6026, 6026, 6027, 6028, 6029, 6032, 6033, 6034, 6035, 6036, 6037, 6038, 6039, 6040, 6041, 6000-6002, 6004, 6005, 6007, 6009, 6010, 6013, 6015, 6016, 6017, 6018, 6019, 6034, 6035, 6005, 6006, 6008, 6012, 6013, 6002, 6003, 6005, 6001, 6000, 6002, 6005, 6006, 6006, 6007, 6009, 6010, 6011.
8 Sketches for 1976 "Capsule" designs, Series 6000. Includes designs 6001, 6003, 6004, 6006, 6008, 6009.
9 Sketches for Spring/Summer 1977 designs, Series 900, 1900, 9000. Includes nos. 900, 902, 903, 904, 906, 1911, 1912, 1913, 1914, 1915, 1916 (2), 1917, 1918, 1919, 1935 (2), 1936, 1937, 9001, 9002, 9003, 9004-9012, 9013 (2), 9014-9016, 9017, 9018, 9019, 9020-9027, 9028, 9029 (2), 9030, 9031, 9032, 9033.
10 Sketches for Fall 1978, 1979 designs, Series 500, 1500, 5000. Includes Priscilla design nos. 500, 501, 503, 505, 506, 507, 508, 511, 515, 516; Priscilla Boutique design nos. 1502, 1504, 1510, 1514; and Bridesmaid design nos. 1516, 5000, 5001, 5002, 5003-5006, 5008, 5012, 5013.
11 Sketches for Spring 1979 designs, Series 600, 1600, 6000. Includes Priscilla design nos. 600, 601, 602, 603, 604, 605, 606 (2), 607, 608-610, 611, 612, 613, 614, 615, 617; Priscilla Boutique nos. 1612, 1613, 1615, 1616, 1618, 1619; Bridesmaid design nos. 6000, 6001-6004, 6005, 6006, 6007, 6008, 6009, 6010-6016, 6017, 6018-6020, 6022, 6023, 6024, 6026, 6027, 6028, 6029, 6031.
12 Sketches for Fall 1979 designs, Series 700, 1700, 7000. Includes Priscilla design nos. 702, 719; Priscilla Boutique nos. 1702, 1708, 1709, 1710, 1711, 7000; Bridesmaid design nos. 7001, 7002, 7003, 7004, 7005, 7006, 7007.
13 Sketches for Fall/Winter 1980 designs, Series 500, 900, 9000. Includes Contemporary Romantic design nos. 901, 902, 903, 904-T, 908 (2), 907, 909, 910, 913-916, 917, 918, 919; Priscilla design nos. 941, 942, 943, 500; Bridesmaid design nos. 9000, 9001, 9003, 9004, 1915B, 9005S, 9006, 9009, 9010, 9011, 9013S, 9014, 9019B/S, 9017, 9020B, 9021B.
14 Sketches for Summer 1980 designs, Series 300, 800, 800F. Includes Contemporary Romantic design nos. 801F, 802F, 804F, 805F, 806F, 807F, 808F, 809S, 811F, 813F, 814F, 815A, 816A, 817F, 818F, 819F, 820A, 822F, 823S, 824F; Priscilla design nos. 809, 810, 831, 832, 833; Teeny design nos. 320, 321; Bridesmaid design nos. 8000, 8001-8009, 8011 (2), 8012-8014, 8015, 8016, 8024.
2 1 Sketches for Spring/Summer 1981 designs, Series 50R, 500, 1500, 5000. Includes Contemporary Romantic design nos. 50R, 51R (2), 53R, 54R, 55R, 56R, 57R, 58R, 59R, 61R, 62R, 63R, 64R, 65R; Priscilla design nos. 1503, 1504; Custom design nos. 500, 502; Bridesmaid design nos. 5000, 5001-5005, 5006, 5007, 5008, 5009, 5010, 5011, 5012, 5014, 5015, 5016, 5017, 5018B/S; 5019 (5010B), 5023B/S, 5024B/S, 5025, 5029, 5031-5033.
2 Sketches for Winter 1981/1982 designs, Series 600. Includes Priscilla Custom design nos. 601, 602, 605, 608, 616.
3 Sketches for 1982 designs, Series 8800. Includes design nos. 8800, 8801, 8802, 8803, 8804, 8805, 8806, 8807, 8808, 8809.
4 Sketches for Spring/Summer 1982 designs, Series 2R - 8R, 700, 1700, 7000. Includes Contemporary Romantic design nos. 2R, 6R, 8R; Priscilla design nos. 1704, 1707, 1712, 1716, 1728, 1729, 1732, 1733; Custom design nos. 701, 703, 706, 715; Bridesmaid design nos. 7003, 7004, 7013, 7015, 7017.
5 Sketches for 1982 designs, Series 200, 600, 1200, 1600, 6000. Includes Teeny design nos. 219, 221, 220, 222; Contemporary Romantic design nos. 1216, 1221, 1223, 1224, 1225; Custom design nos. 601, 603, 604, 605, 606, 607, 608, 609, 610; Priscilla design nos. 1625- 1627, 1628, 1629; Bridesmaid design nos. 6000, 6001, 6002, 6003, 6005, 6006, 6008, 6014B, 6016B/S, 6018B/S, 6019B/S, 6020B/S, 6021B/S, 6022B/S, 6026.
6 Sketches for 1982/1983 designs, Series 300, 400, 800, 1800, 8000. Includes Teeny design nos. 419, 421, 424; Custom design nos. 800, 801, 806, 807, 809, 810, 811, 812, 814, 815, 818, 820, 821; Priscilla design nos. 1806, 1808, 1809, 1815, 1817, 1822, 1831; Bridesmaid design nos. 8000, 8001,8002, 8004, 8005, 8010, 8011, 8017, 8019, 8020, 8021, 8022, 8024, 8031, 8032.
7 Sketches for 1983 designs, Series 114, 500, 1500, 5000. Includes Teeny design no. 114; Custom design nos. 500, 505, 512; Priscilla design nos. 1500, 1501, 1502, 1503, 1514; Bridesmaid design nos. 5004, 5001.
8 Sketches for 1983 designs, Series 60R-73R, 900, 1900, 9000. Includes Contemporary Romantic design nos. 60R, 61R, 62R, 65R, 73R; Custom design nos. 901, 903, 902, 905, 906, 909, 910, 913; Priscilla design nos. 1901, 1914, 1916, 1922, 1924, 1928; Bridesmaid design nos. 9000, 9002, 9003, 9006, 9008, 9010, 9020, 9028.
9 Sketches for 1983, 1984 designs. Includes design nos. 600, 601, 603, 604 (2), 606 (2), 608, 609, 610, 611, 612, 613, 664, 666, 1600, 1607, 1608, 6000, 6003, 6011, 6013, 6014, 6015, 6016, 6017.
10 Sketches for Spring/Summer 1984 designs, Series 600, 1600, 6000. Includes design nos. 600, 603, 604, 607; Priscilla design nos. 1605, 1623, 1625, 1626, 1629, 6011, 6012, 6013, 6014; Bridesmaid design no. 6004.
11 Sketches for 1984 designs, Series 1700. Includes design nos. 1700, 1701.
12 Sketches for February, March 1985 designs, Series 400, 500, 700, 1700, 1800, 7000. Includes design nos. 411, 412, 501, 701, 702, 704, 705, 708, 711, 712, 713, 714, 715, 766, 804, 1706, 1709, 1714, 1715, 1800, 1803, 1804, 1806, 7002, 7003, 7004, 7008.
13 Sketches for 1985 designs, Series 800, 1800, 8000. Includes Custom design nos. 802, 803, 806; Priscilla design nos. 1800, 1803, 1805, 1807, 1818; Bridesmaid design nos. 8018, 8019, 8020.
14 Sketches for Summer 1985 designs, Series 900, 1900, 9000. Includes design nos. 900, 901, 902, 903, 906, 907, 908, 909, 911, 913, 914, 915, 916, 1912, 1928, 1929, 9011, 9013, 9020, 9021.
15 Sketches for 1984, 1985 designs, Series 200, 700, 800, 1800. Includes design nos. 200, 201, 202, 206, 209, 701, 707, 800, 801, 802, 803, 804, 808, 810, 811, 854, 856, 859, 1801, 1806, 1808, 1809, 1814, 1815 (2), 1818, 1822, 1824.
16 Undated sketches, 1980s. Includes design nos. 1R, 4R, 13R, 16R, 84R.
17 Undated sketches. Includes design nos. 101, 119, 122, 216, 325, 424.
18 Undated sketches. Includes design nos. 500, 502-505, 508, 509, 1507, 1509, 1512, 5010, 5016.
19 Undated sketches. Includes design nos. 1509, 1512, 1513.
20 Undated sketches. Includes design nos. 500, 501, 502, 507, 510, 511, 512, 1504, 1511, 1519.
21 Undated sketches. Includes design nos. 600, 603, 604, 605, 606.
22 Undated sketches. Includes design nos. 700, 701, 703, 705, 706, 709, 716, 717, 721, 1706.
23 Undated sketches. Includes design nos. 954, 9004.
24 Undated sketches. Includes design nos. 1617, 1624.
25 Undated sketches. Includes design nos. 1924, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1953.
26 Undated sketches. Includes design nos. 5003, 5005, 5006, 5007 (2), 5008, 5009 (2), 5010 (2), 5011 (2), 5014, 5015, 5017, 5020 (2), 5021, 5028, 5039, 5016, 5017, 5018, 5022, 5023, 5024, 5025, 5026, 5027, 5028, 5030, 5037, 5038.
27 Undated sketches. Includes design nos. 5019, 5023, 5024, 615X, 6023, and six other unnumbered designs, but all are sketches for bridesmaid separates.
28 Undated sketches. Includes design nos. 6000, 6003, 6004, 6008, 6010, 6012, 6014 (3).
29 Undated sketches. Includes design nos. 6000, 6001, 6032, 6033.
30 Undated sketch, design no. 9022.
31 Undated, unnumbered sketches.
32 Undated, unnumbered sketches.
33 Undated, unnumbered sketches, photocopies.
34 Four packets of photographs of dolls wearing historic costume, designed by John Burbidge; an advertisement for a doll and toy show Burbidge participated in, 1996; two articles about Cile Burbidge's career as designer and maker of wedding cakes.
  SERIES 2: ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW AND TRANSCRIPT, 1998
3 1 Original Audio Cassettes, 1998
2 Reference Audio Cassettes, 1998
3 Transcript, 1998

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Revised: February 7, 2007