The V&A’s spring 2014 exhibition will trace the development of the fashionable white wedding dress and its interpretation by leading couturiers and designers, offering a panorama of fashion over the last two centuries.
Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 will feature over 80 of the most romantic, glamorous and extravagant wedding outfits from the V&A’s collection.
It will include important new acquisitions as well as loans such as the embroidered silk coat design by Anna Valentine and worn by The Duchess of Cornwall for the blessing after her marriage to HRH The Prince of Wales (2005), the purple Vivienne Westwood dress chosen by Dita Von Teese (2005) and the Dior outfits worn by Gwen Steffani and Gavin Rossdale on their wedding day (2002).
Displayed chronologically over two floors, the exhibition will focus on bridal wear. Most of the outfits were worn in Britain, by brides of many faiths. Alongside the dresses will be accessories including jewellery, shoes, garters, veils, wreaths, hats and corsetry as well as fashion sketches and personal photographs.
Garments worn by bridegrooms and attendants will also be on display. The exhibition will investigate the histories of the garments, revealing fascinating and personal details about the lives of the wearers, giving an intimate insight into their occupations, circumstances and fashion choices.
The opening section of the exhibition will feature some of the earliest examples of wedding fashion including a silk satin court dress (1775) and a ‘polonaise’ style brocade gown with straw bergère hat (1780) lent by the Chertsey Museum. The preference for white in the 19th century will be demonstrated by a white muslin wedding dress decorated with flowers, leaves and berries (1807) recently acquired by the V&A, and a wedding outfit embellished with pearl beads design by Charles Frederick Worth (1880).
As the 19th century drew to a close historical costume influenced fashion. A fine example will be a copy of a Paris model designed by Paquin Lalanne et Cie made by Stern Brothers of New York (1890) for an American bride.
Designs from the 1920s and 1930s will illustrate the glamour of bridal wear which was now influenced by evening fashions, dresses were slim-hipped and made from richly beaded textured fabrics and slinky bias-cut satin.
During the Second World War when clothing restrictions were introduced, brides needed to make imaginative and practical fashion choices. They used non-rationed fabrics such as upholstery materials, net curtaining and parachute silk, or married in a smart day dress or service uniform. On display will be a buttercup patterned dress made in light-weight upholstery fabric by London dressmaker Ella Dolling (1941).