Wedding Dresses 1775–2014 at the V&A
The V&A’s latest exhibition focuses on bridal wear from the last quarter of the 18th century to modern times. It features a line up of gorgeous dresses of every shape and design to tickle the imagination of any girl who dreams of her own big day at the altar.
The museum’s new temporary exhibit is located at the centre of the museum’s fashion section, occupying two floors, so there are enough beautiful examples of the history of fashion to feast your eyes on. The tradition of the bride dressed in virginal white was cemented by Queen Victoria at her own wedding in 1840, although white or cream colours seem to have been fairly consuetudinal long before the 19th century. Such an example opens the display: a spectacular paniered outfit from the late 1770s in cream-coloured silk, which was apparently also worn for the newly-wed noblewoman’s presentation at court.
The whole ground floor sets out to document the types of wedding wear in vogue throughout the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries, and does so chronologically, tracing wedding wear’s close following of the various outlandish fashions of the succeeding decades – falling gigot sleeves of the Romantic period giving way to crinolines and bustles in the Victorian period, and the corseted S-shape of the modes of dress of the Edwardian era, all reflected slavishly in the dazzling collection of pearl-studded, silver-threaded and lace-adorned bridal costumes exhibited in the first half of the display.
The second half, up a flight of steps, showcases wedding dresses – and a few tailcoats – from the 1960s on. Among others you can find Kate Moss’s delicate gown in silk chiffon designed for her by John Galliano for her wedding to Jamie Hince in 2011, as well as Gwen Stefani’s white and pink affair by Christian Dior. One of the most beautiful pieces on display is Jasper Conran’s understated classic design for Lady Sarah Armstrong-Jones’ wedding in 1994. Simple, yet very much a “princess” wedding dress, it encompasses the style of a decade in the same way that Princess Diana’s fairytale gown by David and Elizabeth Emanuel typified the extravagant, overblown fashions of the 1980s.
As is evident in perusing the exhibition, with bridal wear designers have felt the possibility to express themselves more freely than usual. As a result, the V&A’s latest calvacade of fashion is both entertaining and inspirational.
Photo: Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 is at the V&A until 15th March 2015. For further information or to book visit the museum’s website here.