Wedding dress, veil and gloves worn by Lili Vrahamis at her wedding to Letho Sigalas at the Greek Orthodox church in Victoria Parade, Melbourne in 1923. It was made by a Greek dressmaker in Melbourne. After the ceremony, a large dinner was given for the newlyweds at a café in Punt Road.
Lili (Eleni) Sigalas (nee Vrahamis), born in 1904, was the daughter of Callirrhoe Dressler and Stavros Vrahamis, both from the Greek Island of Sikinos, who also lived for some time in Istanbul. Lili completed her secondary education in Athens, her father ensuring she was reasonably well educated, as he was unable to settle a dowry on her. In 1920 Lili was engaged to a cousin Letho (Eleutherios) Sigalas, and in 1922 migrated to Melbourne on the 'Largs Bay' with her father-in-law to be, James (Iakovos) Sigalas, and her elder married sister Alex. Letho and Lili were married at the Greek Orthodox Church on Victoria Parade, on 18 July 1923, just eight days before Lili's 19th birthday. They had two daughters - Dan'e in 1924 and Magarita Babette in 1931.
Letho worked in his father's cafés and the young couple moved in a very sociable set that included their own young Greek cousins, going to numerous dances, the races, and nightclubs. The family lived at the St Kilda Road house until 1948 when they moved to Kew. In 1930 the family toured Europe and travelled to Greece to see Lili's parents, and again in 1939. In 1937 Lili enrolled in an arts course at Melbourne University (her English now excellent), and during the 1940s, she became a committee member of the International Club, established by Ivy Brookes, which organised cultural events at the St Kilda Town Hall. She was also a member of the Greek Red Cross during the War, participated in organising significant theatre productions and worked as a correspondence teacher of English by the Migrant Education Department. Letho passed away in 1964 and Lili rejoined her family in Greece until 1987, having returned to Melbourne for extended periods during this time. Lili passed away in the 1990s.
Cream velvet dress with georgette sleeves, pearl brooch and hanging beads, waxed orange blossom. Fine netted veil and cream kid leather gloves with three pearl buttons on each glove.
The Sigalas family's immigration story is a rich narrative which relates to a number of themes in the history of social and immigration Melbourne. The wedding dress is an evocative symbol of a key immigration motivation for young women - being brought out to Australia to marry men from similar cultural backgrounds, islands and villages.
The Sigalas family story signifies migration as a continuous experience for some people: of shifting from country to country until finding the right spot to settle; of the strong ties to homelands which draws people back again and again; of chain migration; of finding brides in home countries in order to establish families in the new. While the objects do not directly pursue these themes, they can provide the point from which these complex migration themes can be explored.
Donation from Babette Sigalas, 07/2003
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