Wedding Dresses 1775-2014

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Wedding dress talk is usually reserved for blushing brides but Wedding Dresses: 1775 - 2014 at the V&A is causing a bit of a commotion at Rokit HQ for all the right reasons! This stunning exhibition traces the fashions that influenced the white dress and showcases some of the most glamourous, extravagant and interesting trends over the last two centuries.

There isn't much that fashion doesn't influence (or is influenced by) and the wedding dress is one distinct fashion statement women have been making for centuries. And the V&A display doesn't end with the dress! The blushing bride's accessories are displayed too; veils, jewellery, shoes, garters, wreaths, hats and corsetry. It's all there (some with original fashion sketches or photographs).
The exhibition at the V&A was beautifully curated into three sections and each captures the evolution of wedding fashion traditions and how they were a reflection of fashion at that time;

In the 1800s most weddings were held in a church and women had to cover their head and arms, designs inspired by historical costume feature clever sleeve details, including some that were removable so the bride could enjoy a less formal style after her ceremony. White was fashionable during this time as formal dress, and this is where the tradition for white wedding dresses was developed. Fashion magazines encouraged and cemented this trend by publishing fashion plates showing white dresses worn with lace veils. When Queen Victoria was on the throne, white wedding dresses, veils and orange-blossom wreaths (with a strong scent) were so popular that they were viewed as traditional. However they were still influenced by changes in fashion.

One of our favourite dresses on display is the silk satin dress worn by Cara Rogers in 1880, with simple pearl buttoned long sleeve bodice and incredible pearl and lace heavily detailed skirt.

During the Edwardian period (1901 - 11) bridal style took inspiration from the cut, fabric and styling of evening wear (think Downton Season 1). After the First World War this trend really developed in opposition to the increasingly practical and informal style of daywear. Shades of white and cream were still popular but some brides began to push the tradition, adding in pastel and metallic colours.
In the 1920s and 30s British designers were establishing couture houses inspired by those in Paris. Glamourous slim-hipped evening styles were made from slinky bias-cut satin and covered in heavy beading. Fabrics also included more unusual textures like velvet for winter weddings.
The socialites of the 30s and 40s were regulars in the newspaper gossip columns, so when extravagant weddings occurred, the bride's outfit was big news. Everyone wanted to know who designed the bride's dress, and this fuelled public interest. Sounds familiar?

Note. Don't miss the impressive gown made for society beauty Margaret Whigham, with a huge 3.6 metre train.

During WWII rationing had a huge impact on the types of fabrics used to create wedding gowns with. Brides had to be practical; borrowing or making outifts from un-rationed materials like upholstery fabric, net curtains or parachute silk.
Christian Dior's debut collection in 1947 dashed all hopes of the British fashion industry reducing Paris' dominance in the international fashion market. The British government criticised Dior's long, full skirts as impractical and inappropriate, but British women fell in love with the femininity and luxury. We're just suckers for the rustle of netting, tulle and heavy fabric!
Hemlines jumped around over the next few decades, with shorter styles appearing in the 50s, a wave of new British designers in the 60s led to some cutting edge designs including the mini dress, and long, floaty styles joining in the 70s. Women wanted to get the most mileage from their big day as possible, so some chose really wearable styles that they could adopt into their everyday wardrobe afterwards.

We couldn't really talk about wedding dresses without mentioning Jenny Packham, Temperley Bridal, Vera Wang, Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano, Christian Lacroix or Lanvin. Upstairs at the exhibition you'll find a modern day smattering of wedding glamour, featuring these iconic designers and with a touch of the unconventional mixed in. You can marvel over Gwen Stefani's pink dip-dyed Dior gown, or curtsey in front of the Duchess of Cornwall's demure gown and Philip Treacy headpiece. We practically drooled over Kate Moss and Jamie Hince's wedding day outfits. Kate's John Galliano designed dress includes Phoenix feather sequins that fall oh-so-perfectly in beautiful folds into a sequinned pool around her Manolo Blahnik's, and Jamie accessorised his YSL suit with a tie featuring a pin up style illustration of Kate, tucked behind the double-breasted jacket.

You don't have to be a bride-to-be to visit this exhibition, you'll find something to grab your attention, whether you are fascinated by the history of fashion, or just love a good ogle at celebrity garb up close and personal.

Wedding Dresses 1770 - 2014 takes place at the V&A in London until 15 March 2015.