I was treated to a preview of the V&A’s new Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 exhibition last week. It opened to everyone at the weekend, so here’s a peek at some of my favourite things on show.
The ground floor charts dresses from the 18th century up to the mid-20th century. You can clearly see the styles changing through the years and the influence that factors such as wealth and location had on the dress a woman chose. Above, some elaborately hand-worked 18th century dresses.
I love the print of this humble cotton dress, worn by a farm labourer in the 1830s.
A steam-moulded Victorian corset to be worn under a dress – yikes.
Another stunning 30s dress, bias cut silk with a slightly more subtle train, again worn by a society lady.
A silver lamé bridesmaids’ dress for a Jewish wedding, from just up the road in Stamford Hill.
Not every dress is white: a purple coat dress handmade by its wearer in the 1890s, and a gorgeous red shirt dress from the 30s.
The show is interspersed with little personal touches: fabric swatches, shoes and floral crowns and real quotations written on the walls, which makes it feel intimate and personal. This show really celebrates the bride herself.
Moving upstairs, this section covers the 1960s onwards and contains most of the star draws of the exhibition. Firstly, Kate Moss’s dress from her wedding to Jamie Hince.
The Galliano dress is even more stunning in the flesh as it was in the photos at the time: it’s got over a quarter of a million gold sequins as well as pearl beads and paillons which took over 700 hours to complete.
Another Galliano creation and one of my all-time favourites, Gwen Stefani’s dip-dyed dress. Great to see all the punk-influenced lacing and strapping on the back. Ugly shoes though!
Dita von Teese’s typically retiring shimmery purple gown
Modern dresses with influences from the 60s and 30s.
A pretty 60s tea dress, designed by its wearer
A modern Ghanian wedding ensemble in traditional wax prints. I thought the show was a little too Western-orientated overall – it would have been nice to see more dresses from other cultures.
Interesting and beautiful craftsmanship techniques: roses applied to the veil with rubber, and the Duchess of Cornwall’s handpainted silk coat.
Even if like me you don’t have much interest in weddings, there is plenty to be enthralled by here. The changing fashions through time, the craftsmanship and the social and historical influences are all fascinating and make this show well worth a visit. The exhibition runs at the V&A until next March; you can find out more and order tickets here.