Welcome to tales of my stitching life, home, family and friends.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Unveiled – 200 years of Wedding Fashion

Like most “girls” I love a good wedding, and love looking at beautiful gowns, veils, and everything else that goes with the most romantic day of any girl’s life.   I spent a happy couple of hours at Te Papa Museum, Wellington, wandering around the wonderful collection of wedding gowns, the travelling exhibition  from the V & A Museum in London.  The entry fee was $15.00 with a concession charge of $13.50 for seniors, (just love those senior prices). 
DSCF8657 Te Papa Museum
Two gowns were displayed outside of the exhibition and this gown was worn by Lucy Cacroft when she wed James Ferguson in 1914.  Made of crepe-de-chine with a flowing lace veil, this gown reflected the trend of wedding dresses inspired by evening wear.
DSCF8658 Crepe-de-chine dress from 1914
When Margaret Broadbent married William Arlington in 1955, she wanted a dress with simple lines.  This dress was made by the bridal department of Thompson’s Silk Shop in Wellington.  How many Wellingtonians  used to shop at this fabric shop before it closed  down, I wonder?
DSCF8660 1955 wedding dress
Photography was not allowed inside the exhibition, as I expected.  Such a shame, as the exhibition was full of so many beautiful gowns.  So the best I could do was take a quick snap before I handed my entry ticket over.
DSCF8661 This way to the wedding gowns
The exhibition was split into ten areas in different time frames from 1800 right through till the early 2000s.  “Creating Traditions” told how lace veils were expensive in these times, and bridal caps and bonnets were often an alternative until plain tulle veils became fashionable in the 1830s.  Roses and myrtle signified love, and orange blossom was for fertility and virtue, and were used as head dresses and trimmings.  A display case showed pretty garters,  leather gloves and a lovely silk purse.  Silky underwear for the trousseau was in another case, and the fashionable bride made sure that these dainty items had her initials embroidered on them. 
The exhibition showed wedding styles from Victorian times, artistic styles from 1900 till 1930s, and gowns from society weddings of the 20s and 30s.  Although I was a young woman in the 60s, I’m afraid I wasn’t at all taken with the mini wedding gowns displayed.  (What does that say about me, I wonder, perhaps just that I am a romantic at heart).  One bride in the war years found a way to beat the ration book.  Upholstery fabric was not rationed, so her dress was made of pretty patterned lightweight upholstery fabric, found in the “From Austerity to the New Look”section.  Romantic gowns re-appeared in the “Nostalgia, Romance and the Modern Age section of 1970s to 2000s.  The last two cases contained gowns from “Celebrity Weddings” and “New Zealand Style”.  Check out Te Papa’s blog for photos of the wedding dresses.
News reel footage of royal and society weddings ran continuously in the “Film Area”.  All the ladies (and a sprinkling of men) enjoyed watching Charles and Diana, William and Kate, Elizabeth and Phillip, and the Queen Mum and  George VI as they posed for the cameras.  The exhibition was delightful, and I enjoyed it immensely.  Strangely enough, my pick of the gowns was not made for a wedding at all.  Known as the “Television Wedding Dress”, it was designed by Barbara Milne and used in TV adverts for Renault's Clio car.  It was a beautiful form fitting embroidered lace gown worn with a fine veil.  My second choice was a Hartnel designed gown, encrusted with pearls and a huge train, worn by Margaret, Duchess of Argyll at her wedding to Charles Sweeny in 1933.  This gown was a bit “over the top” for ordinary mortals, but obviously just the thing for a Duchess to wear, and quite beautiful never the less.   Floating home with my head full of all the lovely dresses, I wondered perhaps that I will need a return visit, as there was so much to see and take in.  For those who live nearby, or can make the trip to Wellington, do go and see the exhibition, you won’t be disappointed.