The V&A’s spring 2014 exhibition traces the development of the fashionable white wedding dress and the work of leading couturiers and designers over the last two centuries.
Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 features over 80 of the most romantic, glamorous and extravagant wedding outfits from the V&A’s collection. It includes important new acquisitions as well as loans such as Kate Moss’s spectacular couture wedding dress designed by John Galliano and Jamie Hince’s outfit by Stefano Pilati for Yves Saint Laurent (2011), the embroidered silk coat designed by Anna Valentine and worn by The Duchess of Cornwall for the blessing after her marriage to HRH The Prince of Wales (2005), the purple Vivienne Westwood dress chosen by Dita Von Teese (2005), and the Dior outfits worn by Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale on their wedding day (2002).
Displayed over two floors, the exhibition focuses on bridal wear. Most of the outfits were worn in Britain, by brides of many faiths. Alongside the dresses are accessories including jewellery, shoes, garters, veils, wreaths, hats and corsetry as well as fashion sketches and personal photographs. Garments worn by bridegrooms and attendants are also on display. The exhibition investigates the growth of the Wedding industry and the increased media interest in Society and Celebrity weddings.
Visiting London Guide Review
The opening section concentrates on the 18th century and considers how closely the choice of dress reflected on the Bride’s and Groom’s position in Society.
The fashion for white wedding dresses was encouraged by fashion magazines in Britain and France , a selection of the magazines fashion plates is shown in the exhibition.
During the Victorian age, the white wedding dress , veil and orange blossom flowers became so common it was seen as the traditional wedding apparel with the use of lace becoming more common.
After the first world war, there was increasing interest in Society Weddings by the media and the dresses became more flamboyant and out of the ordinary.
The 1933 wedding dress by Norman Hartnell for Margaret Whigham typified this with its hanging sleeves and 3.6 metre train.
If the Hartnell dress drew on medieval influences ,the dress by Charles James went to the other extreme by creating a very modern dress that showed the curves of the bride, the dress still had a train but this was divided .
In the second world war , shortages of many goods had an effect and dresses tended to be simpler and low-key.
The 50s saw a return to the more flamboyant wedding dresses especially influenced by the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
The swinging sixties saw a rejection of many of the traditions that held sway in the previous decades and this was reflected in Wedding Dresses and suits worn by grooms.
For many there was a rejection of the traditional wedding dress altogether , with many brides wearing a designer dress that could be worn on other occasions.
In the late 20th Century and early 21st century , the traditional white wedding dress seems to have made a comeback but often with a modern twist.
The Wedding Dresses Exhibition is over two floors in a part of the museum which looks a little like a wedding cake, as well as the dresses, there are films and photographs of weddings to create a multi media environment.
What is quite clear from the exhibition is the role that media plays in presenting certain modes of Wedding Dresses as the fashion of that moment usually by focusing on the rich and wealthy members of the Society, these fashions then permeate down through the magazines and trendsetters amongst the designer fraternity to often be adapted lower down the ladder, especially by the Wedding Industry who offer the prospective couples themes to choose from.
The exhibition will appeal to people involved in the Wedding Industry and with interests in fashion and design, however the V and A are past masters of presenting a theme for an exhibition that on the surface probably would not perhaps appeal to a massive cross section of people , however it is the context that probably has a wider appeal and Wedding Dresses from 1775 – 2014 tell us a great deal about the societies the individual brides lived in and their social position.
Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended
Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 – The exhibition takes place in the V&A Fashion Gallery (Gallery 40)
from 3 May 2014 – 15 March 2015.
The V&A is open daily 10:00 – 17:45 and until 22:00 every Friday.
Ticket Information – Tickets: £12 (concessions available)