White muslin wedding dresses were particularly fashionable from 1790-1810, helping to establish white as the most appropriate choice for well-to-do young women marrying for the first time. This dress was worn by a seventeen year old bride, Mary Dalton Norcliffe who married Dr. Charles Best at the church of Saint Michael-Le-Belfry in York on 11 June 1807. At the time of their marriage Dr. Best was working as an Assistant Physician to Dr. Alexander Hunter at York Asylum.
Although the cut and construction of the dress follow standard practice, its decoration is striking. The asymmetrical embroidery on the front of the skirt recalls the drapery of a toga reflecting the current interest in classical antiquity. In May 1808 The Lady's Monthly Museum featured a formal dress, also made of muslin embroidered with cotton, with a similar decorative feature, suggesting that the decoration of the wedding dress was very up-to-date.