Wedding Dresses 1775 – 2014 at the Victoria and Albert Museum

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Weddings and Marriage have been the ultimate symbol of love in many cultures across the years for Centuries, and the Bridal Gown viewed as one of the central aspects of the day – Wedding Dresses 1775 – 2014 at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Pale grey slashed chiffon wedding dress designed by Gareth Pugh and veil by Stephen Jones 2011. Courtesy of Katie Shillingford. Photo Amy Gwatkin

In order to emphasise the evolution of the fashion highlight of the Centuries-old tradition, the Victoria and Albert Museum have presented the exhibition, Wedding Dresses 1775 – 2014.

Spread out in chronological order over two floors, the exhibition focuses on bridal wear between the years of 1775 and 2014, however, in addition, accessories, fashion sketches, photographs, and the garments worn by bridegrooms and attendants have been displayed.

Wedding Dresses 1775-2014

Walking through the exhibition, you are greeted with a silk satin court dress from 1775 and a brocade gown from 1780, displayed with its original begère hat and shoes, lent to the Victoria and Albert Museum for this particular exhibition by Chertsey Museum. Jane Bailey wore the fashionable gown, which featured tight pleating of the skirt to the bodice and a sharp point at the small of the back,  for her marriage to James Wickham Esquire.

Honiton lace veil detail British 1850 Victoria and Albert Museum London

Moving through to the 19th Century, the exhibition highlights the increased focus on detail in wedding fashion, for example the intricate embellishments on veils as seen in the image above of the Honiton lace wedding veil from the 1850s.

Embroidered corded silk wedding dress made after a Paquin Lalanne et Cie Paris. Model by Stern Brothers New York 1890. Given by Lord Fairhaven. Victoria and Albert Museum London

20th Century Bridal fashion, prior to the Second World War, saw Bridal wear being influenced significantly by evening glamour, with dresses being slim-hipped, and the heavy use of beaded fabrics and bias-cut satin.

For example, the embroidered silk satin Norman Hartnell design worn by Margaret Wigham in 1933, or the silk satin wedding dress designed by Charles James, London, 1934, for Baba Beaton’s, daughter of Sir Cecil Beaton, marriage to Alec Hambro. However, the rationing of fabrics during World War Two led to brides having to use imagination and creativity when designing new dresses, using upholstery materials, net curtains and parachute silk.

Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 Victoria and Albert Museum London

The mezzanine level of the exhibition features wedding fashion from 1960 to the Spring/Summer 2014 designs by Jenny Packham and Temperley Bridal, featuring some of the most infamous modern bridal designs, worn by royalty and celebrities alike.

The Duchess of Cornwall’s embroidered silk coat and dress, designed by Robinson and Valentine, alongside the feathered headdress accessory created by Philip Treacy, worn by her when she wed Charles, Prince of Wales, in 2005.

John Galliano’s designs frequent the mezzanine level of the exhibition, displaying the unconventional pink and white gown worn by musician Gwen Stefani for her marriage to Gavin Rossdale, whose suit is presented next to the stunning dress.

Wedding Dresses 1775-2014

In addition, the exhibition presents the stunning 1930s style, custom-made John Galliano gown, worn by model Kate Moss in July 2011, for her marriage to musician James William Hince. The groom’s double-breasted, light-blue Stefano Pilati for Yves Saint Laurent Suit is also on display.

The exhibition also presents the stunning works of Gareth Pugh, Stephen Jones and Ian Stuart. The pale grey slashed chiffon gown worn by Katie Shillingford, designed by Gareth Pugh, and the accompanying veil created by Stephen Jones, simply oozes elegance and sophistication in their presentation.

Also, the modern, strapless ball gown design by Ian Stuart, modelled in the picture above by Jenny Bishop, emphasises the paradoxical simplicity, yet flamboyance, of wedding gowns.

Silk satin wedding dress designed by Charles James London 1934. Worn by Barbara Baba Beaton. Given by Mrs Alec Hambro Victoria and Albert Museum London

Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 has something for everyone, whether they be passionate about the world of fashion and art, history, or just want to witness the romantic world of Weddings and Marriage. The exhibition will be at the Victoria and Albert Museum until March 2015, and the organisers would like to thank their Travel Partner Kuoni, and their supporters Waterford Crystal and Monsoon Bridal.

Wedding Dresses 1775 – 2014 at the Victoria and Albert Museum

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Written by Kate Grimbley-Smith

Kate is a Business Management student at the University of Birmingham, passionate about all areas of journalism, in particular fashion with a keen eye for how the traditional aspects of fashion are reflected in new collections.

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