If you want to see how bridal fashions have changed or get up close and personal with some celebrity wedding dresses then the current exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London is a must!

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The exhibition has dresses spanning the last 300 years with their earliest exhibit from 1779 and has a good range of wedding dresses from then until now. It’s amazing how so many of these dresses have survived and have been donated to the exhibition by families who have obviously cherished these heirlooms (or maybe have their own private museum!)

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What is fascinating and not really that surprising is that up until the 1920’s wedding dresses pretty much mirrored the fashion of the day. It was easy to see, even before reading the (comprehensive) details about each dress from which era it originated.

After this time, as the diversity of women’s fashion grew and became less defined, designers appear to have a free creative rein and the largest most eclectic range of styles is certainly from the 1950’s to today. Although many designers still seem to draw upon historical influences the broad spectrum of available fabrics and accepted design has lead to the large selection of styles that are available to today’s bride.

The exhibition also demonstrates the tenacity and creativity of women when it comes to their wedding dress! There are exhibits of dresses from the 2nd World War when brides, if the couldn’t get their hands on any parachute silk, made their dresses from upholstery fabric or curtaining as this wasn’t subject to rationing.  It also demonstrates the great British spirit of not being defeated in the face of adversity as the picture below shows all too well!IMG_0941

 

Although all of the exhibits were fascinating in their own way the highlights for me were

Lates 1770's

This fantastic creation dates back to the 1770’s and you can only wonder at the time taken to complete all the intricate detailing.  Although associated with a wedding this may have been a dress worn by the bride as she was presented at court – hope they had wide doors!

1800

A more representative dress from the similar era is this silk gown with brocade flowers which could be worn a la polonaise (oo-er! meaning that the outer layer of the skirt could be pulled up into gathers at the back).  It’s amazing that the full ensemble of dress, hat & shoes remains together and in such good condition.

mary

This amazing 1930’s gown was designed by Norman Hartnell and worn by Socialite Margaret Whigham. The exhibition includes cine film footage of the wedding which brought traffic to a standstill and the dress is just jaw-droppingly gorgeous.

Current designers are also featured with gowns from Bruce Oldfield, Ian Stuart, Jenny Packham & Temperley to name a few

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jenny packham

The designers are well represented in the celebrity wedding dresses on display with John Galliano for Dior dressing both Gwen Stefani & Kate Moss

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However, the amazing creation in purple silk by Vivienne Westwood for Dita Von Teese for me stole the show taking centre stage on the balcony creating a fitting centrepiece for the exhibition.

Dita

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Probably the only disappointing element of the exhibition was the lack of Royal wedding dresses and although there was media footage showing the weddings of the Queen, Princess Margaret, Diana and Katherine the sole Royal outfit on display was that worn by Camilla for her marriage blessing to Prince Charles.

camilla

Overall the exhibition comprehensively represents the change in bridal fashions and the move towards white (or variation of) becoming the brides colour of choice – the trend often credited to Queen Victoria who selected white for her wedding gown.

It’s a great day out for ooh-ing & aah-ing! The exhibition is on at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, until 15th March 2015.