In the last 200 years the wedding dress has come to be a particularly significant cultural object. With a range of sizes and structures that can place it anywhere between garment and small shelter, the construction of a wedding dress is a feat not only of dress making, but architecture too. Among the V&A's earliest examples are dresses with enormous leg o' mutton or 'imbecile' sleeves, and puff ball skirts, supported beneath by crinolines and frames. Even as these extreme dress styles went out of fashion as daywear they have maintained their presence amongst wedding attire. A contemporary example of wedding architecture in the show is burlesque performer Dita von Teese's extravagant purple silk dress by Vivienne Westwood and her wedding corset, custom made by Mr. Pearl, which she wore for her marriage to Marilyn Manson.
The curator, Edwina Ehrman, was interested in exploring how the white wedding dress came to its present ubiquity. First appearing in the late eighteenth century, Queen Victoria chose a white dress for her wedding in 1840, which helped to propel it from a passing fashion to an enduring model. Although the bride is generally represented as wearing white in images, examples of actual dresses show that this has not always been the case in practice. Furthermore, thriftiness even amongst wealthy women meant that most women would wear their dresses and even their veils again. In the book written to accompany the exhibition, Ehrman suggests that although white symbolises purity and innocence, and is therefore suitable for a wedding dress, the reasons for its rise in popularity were far more fashion driven.
This exceptional collection will fulfil all fantasies of fairytale glamour, but it also features some more unorthodox wedding choices, such as the ruby red day dress worn by Monica Maurice, the first woman member of the Association of Mining Electrical Engineers. A personal favourite has to be the silk-satin number made by Charles James in 1934 for society photographer Cecil Beaton's sister, Baba Beaton. With a deceptively simple, classic silhouette and divided train, this uber-glamorous dress is cut on the bias so that it clings to the body and accentuates natural lines and curves with a series of subtle seams and darts.
|What||Wedding Dresses 1775-2014, V&A|
|Where||V&A, South Kensington, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL | MAP|
|Nearest tube||South Kensington (underground)|
03 May 14 – 15 Mar 15, 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
12 Jul 14 – 19 Jul 14, 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM
|Price||£12 Full. £10.00 Senior citizens. £8.00 Full-time students, 12-17 year olds, ES40 holders, disabled|
|Website||Click here for more information and to book via the V&A|