V&A WEDDING DRESSES 1775 - 2014
The Victoria & Albert Museum is showcasing an inspirational and insightful exhibition for anyone with a love of weddings and wedding fashion. The exhibition takes you on a journey of the development of the fashionable and iconic white wedding dress from the 18th Century through to the present day.
Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 (curated by Edwina Ehrman) features over 80 of the most romantic, glamorous and extravagant wedding outfits from the V&A’s collection, chronologically arranged over two floors. You can immerse yourself in the wedding fashion journey over the last two centuries with an upclose view of wedding dresses as well as wedding accessories including jewellery, shoes, garters, veils, wreaths, hats and corsetry as well as fashion sketches and personal photographs. The exhibition explores the history of each of the garments, and shares fascinating and personal details about the lives of those that wore them, giving a personal insight into their occupations, circumstances and fashion choices at the time.
As you enter the exhibition, you're transported to some of the earliest examples of wedding fashion including a silk satin court dress (1775) and a brocade gown with its original bergère hat and shoes (1780), kindly on loan to the V&A by Chertsey Museum.
Intriguingly, as the 19th century drew to a close historical costume heavily influenced fashion as shown by a copy of a Paris model designed by Paquin Lalanne et Cie and made by Stern Brothers of New York (1890) for an American bride.
As the wedding fashion journey continues, the V&A showcases how bridal designs from the 1920s and 1930s began to ooze glamour as influenced by evening fashions of the era; the silhouette of dresses were slim-hipped and made from richly beaded textured fabrics and slinky bias-cut satin. Then during the Second World War, as clothing restrictions were put in place, brides were forced to become imaginative and make practical fashion choices. So the wedding dress evolved yet again, with brides using non-rationed fabrics such as upholstery materials, net curtaining and parachute silk, or they married in a smart day dress or service uniform.
The Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 exhibition also explores the growth of the wedding industry and the effect of increasing media focus on wedding fashions. With improvements in photography in the early 20th century, photojournalism and society weddings were reported in detail in the national press and gossip columns and proved popular reading material! Two of the most spectacular wedding dresses of this time are on show: Norman Hartnell's dress made for Margaret Whigham (later Duchess of Argyll) for her marriage to Charles Sweeny in 1933 [shown below left], and Charles James' ivory silk satin dress worn by Barbara 'Baba' Beaton for her marriage to Alec Hambro in 1934 [shown below right]. These dramatic dresses are shown alongside archive film and news clippings as examples of society ‘celebrity’ weddings.
As you head up the stairs to the mezzanine level, you're greeted by wedding garments from 1960 to 2014, including up to date Spring/Summer 2014 designs such as the Rapunzel gown by Jenny Packham with a bodice swathed in Swarovski crystals and the beautiful Jean dress by Temperley Bridal.
With an emphasis on the glamour and spectacle of weddings today, you can expect to see key designers including Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano, Christian Lacroix, Lanvin, Vera Wang, Jasper Conran, Bruce Oldfield, Osman, Hardy Amies, Bellville Sassoon, Mr.Fish, John Bates, Jean Muir and Ian Stuart, with millinery by Philip Treacy and Stephen Jones.
The mezzanine was probably the highlight for us as this section explores the changing social and cultural attitudes to the wedding ceremony and marriage in the late 20th century and includes examples of innovative and unconventional wedding outfits such as those designed by Gareth Pugh for Katie Shillingford (2011) and Pam Hogg for Mary Charteris (2012).
We personally couldn't stop swooning over the pièce de résistance of Kate Moss's spectacular couture wedding dress designed by John Galliano and Jamie Hince's outfit by Stefano Pilati for Yves Saint Laurent (2011). It took 701 hours to embroider her dress and 253 hours to complete the veil using 270,000 gold sequins, 120,000 foil paillons and 2,800 pearl beads.
Next, we admired the embroidered silk coat designed by Robinson and Valentine for The Duchess of Cornwall for the blessing after her marriage to HRH The Prince of Wales in 2005, complimented by her elegant gold feather Philip Treacy hat.
Another iconic dress on show, is the unforgettable purple Vivienne Westwood dress chosen by burlesque artist Dita Von Teese for her wedding to rock musician Marilyn Manson in 2005. Her look was finished with a Stephen Jones hat and matching purple silk Christian Louboutin shoes with diamanté embellishment.
Gwen Stefani's unconventional, Dior, pink dip-dyed silk and tulle wedding dress is also worth viewing with its romantic disorder implied by the dress' asymmetric construction which attracted widespread media admiration in 2002.
We would highly recommend visiting the exhibition which takes place in the V&A Fashion Gallery (Gallery 40) from 3 May 2014 – 15 March 2015.
Ticket Information Tickets: £12 (concessions available) V&A Members go free The V&A is open daily 10:00 – 17:45 and until 22:00 every Friday For bookings visit www.vam.ac.uk (booking fee applies) or call 020 7420 9736
Images and videos courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum, unless otherwise stated.