Love in the Victoria & Albert Air

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Embroidered corded silk wedding dress made after a Paquin, Lalanne et Cie Paris model by Stern Brothers, New York, 1890 Worn by Cara Leland Huttleston Rogers for her marriage in New York to Bradford Ferris Duff Given by Lord Fairhaven © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Love has struck at the V&A with an exhibition that combines fashion, design and art blended with Romanticism – Wedding Dresses 1775-2014

Spread out over two levels the exhibition charters the story of the ultimate feature of the wardrobe throughout history – the wedding dress. Spanning two centuries, it documents the traditions of wedding dresses at different times with regards to not only fashion styles and cuts, but colour and materials, and how this staple of fashion as been interpreted by designers and couturiers throughout the ages.

The exhibition is displayed in chronological order, the first part of which displays early pieces of wedding attire dating back to the eighteenth century. As the exhibition progresses through the various ages and bridal fashions, it comes the turn of wedding dresses in the 1920s and 1930s – a particular favourite period of mine in terms of fashion.

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© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

An absolutely traffic-stopping wedding dress from the early 1930s has an entire glass case devoted to it and represents the glamour of this period perfectly. The beautiful bias cut of the satin dress gives way to an intricately detailed and impressive train. This incredible dress was worn by the socialite Margaret Wingham and included in the exhibition was original film footage from the 1930s when she got married which showed the large crowds and press all trying to catch a glimpse of her stunning dress. Who says the cult of celebrity is a modern phenomenon?

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Silk satin wedding dress designed by Charles James, London, 1934 Worn by Barbara ‘Baba’ Beaton for her marriage to Alec Hambro 1934 Given by Mrs Alec Hambro © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The many different styles, particularly the later designs, give a real sense of how a bride wants to stand out and be unique in the tradition of white wedding dresses – there are many variations on this theme showing how brides make themselves stand out.

Each bride wants to be memorable and not become lost amongst a sea of white dresses. What this exhibition demonstrates is not just white dress after white dress; but how this can be modified and made to stand out from others. The many different styles on display, particularly the later designs, give a real sense of being prominent in the tradition of white wedding dresses. There are many variations on the theme of the white dress to make the bride stand out from the rest; the wedding gown dip-dyed with pink designed by John Galliano for Gwen Stefani’s wedding to Gavin Rossdale is a prime example of this.

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© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

With the inclusion of the dip-dyed pink, Galliano added a contemporary dimension to the traditional white wedding dress. This not only reflected the quirky and edgy personality of the No Doubt singer and solo artist, but also ensured that her dress was memorable – even twelve years later if someone was to mention “Gwen Stefani’s wedding” that pink dress will instantly be brought to the forefront of your mind.

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© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

This is not the only wedding dress by Galliano on display, included in the exhibition is Kate Moss’s wedding dress, also created by the designer, when she married Jamie Hince. I remember seeing pictures of La Moss’s dress and thought it looked lovely and vintage-inspired; when viewed in real life so-to-speak, the amount of detail in the lace, beading and design overall is nothing less than exquisite.

Another stand out dress comes from the stunning Dita von Teese who wore Vivienne Westwood and matching Louboutins when
she wed rocker Marilyn Manson in 2005. The burlesque star went completely against the grain of a traditional white wedding in her choice of an opulent purple creation which only Dita could carry off.

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© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

My favourite pieces of the exhibition (I could easily choose everything) are Margaret Wingham and Baba (Barbara) Beaton for tradition, style and pinnacle examples of 1930s fashion history and Ian Stuart’s Flower Bomb and Christian Lacroix for sheer creativity.

Also on display are other wedding paraphernalia such as shoes, tiaras and jewellery which all make for fabulous viewing.

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© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

If you are planning a wedding at the moment this is a great exhibition to visit to gain inspiration; even if you’re not getting married the history of the wedding fashion is unique and interesting and the intricacy and detail of these gowns is like visiting any other couture show – you go to witness dress making and fashion at its highest potential.

Wedding dresses is on at the V&A until 15th March 2015

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