Friday, August 19, 2011

300 Years of Wedding Fashion - *LeSighofBliss*

We gals love nothing more than a bunch of wedding frocks. The Victoria and Albert Museum is touring a collection of its wedding dresses to Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand later this year, and Edwina Ehrman, Curator of textiles and fashion at the V&A, popped by to deliver a lecture on the subject a couple of weeks ago.
Talk about SQUEEEE!!!!! About 600 women and approx five men comprised the audience for this lecture, and we gasped and oohed over the slides, and laughed and aahed at Edwina's interesting and entertaining lecture. It was oddly comforting (although of course not surprising) to hear her confirm what all properly informed costumiers know, that Queen Victoria was not the instigator of white wedding dresses, which were already a popular choice for weddings. Her contribution was to turn away from the silver more favoured by royalty to dress more like a normal bride not a queen, showing by doing so that her beloved Albert was her husband first and her consort second. It was a romantic gesture not lost on Victorian brides, or on the bridal industry, which was as commercial and abundant as it is is today.
Anyway, the V&A has put out a book to go with the exhibition, and I bought a copy and Edwina signed it for me. Here are some pix from it - a random sample of my favourites:
 The cover shows a dress of cotton organdie from 1953, designed by Hardy Amies for the Cotton Board. It so reminds me of the beautiful wool wedding dress in Te Papa designed for the New Zealand Wool Board to promote wool. I'm not sure if these unconventional alternatives to silk and synthetics for wedding dresses ever took off but how utterly gorgeous it is!
 I actually think this is my favourite. The most beautiful hand-painted coat by Bellville Sassoon from 1971. It was off the peg but a very high quality, stylish garment and don't you love the bride's orange satin boots!
 A Norman Hartnell embroidered dress from 1951. I just love the almost mediaeval lines of the dress, and its architectural simplicity.
 This dress from 1828 is so beautiful! Fascinating too that its silver trimmings have now tarnished and provide a strong contrast, which of course alters the appearance but makes it easy to see the patterns of the silverwork. Exquisite.
 A gorgeous robe a la francaise from 1775-1780, more likely to have been worn for the bride's presentation at court than on a wedding day.
Possibly my favourite for its glorious maximalism, by Norman Hartnell, 1933. For a society wedding. It has the second largest crate in the exhibition, second only to Dita von Teese's dress! I adore the way in which the chiffon border looks like sea foam and I cannot wait to see it in person, so to speak!
I am reproducing these few pages to show you how lovely this book is. I've only read to page 49 although of course I've peered at all of the photos already. It's as interesting to read as it is beautiful to look at.
Rock on the exhibition!!


  1. What a treat that lecture must have been! It looks like a lovely book too. I hope the exhibit makes it stateside. (fingers crossed!)

  2. I too LOVE that painted coat, very much my taste, very much not my budget!