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V&A to offer panorama of fashion over last two centuries
23
Apr '14
The V&A’s spring 2014 exhibition traces 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 features over 80 of the most romantic, glamorous and extravagant wedding outfits from the V&A’s collection. It includes important new acquisitions as well as loans such as Kate Moss's spectacular couture wedding dress designed by John Galliano and Jamie Hince's outfit by Stefano Pilati for Yves Saint Laurent (2011), the embroidered silk coat designed 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 Stefani and Gavin Rossdale on their wedding day (2002).
 
Displayed chronologically over two floors, the exhibition focuses on bridal wear. Most of the outfits were worn in Britain, by brides of many faiths. Alongside the dresses are accessories including jewellery, shoes, garters, veils, wreaths, hats and corsetry as well as fashion sketches and personal photographs. Garments worn by bridegrooms and attendants are also on display. 
 
The exhibition investigates 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 features some of the earliest examples of wedding fashion including a silk satin court dress (1775) and a brocade gown with its original bergère hat and shoes (1780) lent by Chertsey Museum. 
 
The preference for white in the 19th century is demonstrated by a white muslin wedding dress embroidered with flowers, leaves and berries (1807) recently acquired by the V&A, and a wedding outfit embellished with pearl beads designed by Charles Frederick Worth (1880). As the 19th century drew to a close historical costume influenced fashion. A fine example is 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 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. 


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