Wedding Dresses 1775-2014
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
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
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.
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
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.