Embroidered silk coat and silk dress designed by Robinson and Valentine, feather headdress created by Philip Treacy, 2005
 Artist: Worn by The Duchess of Cornwall for the blessing after her marriage to HRH The Prince of Wales
 Date: 2005
 Credit line: Photograph by Hugo Burnand 


Wedding Dresses 1775-2014
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.

Posted 30 October 2014

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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 Robinson and 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. 

Wool frock coat and trousers, designed by Mr. Fish, London, 1967 Worn by Charles Evelyn Penn Lucas to marry Antoinette von Westenholz
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

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.

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

Embroidered silk satin wedding dress designed by Norman Hartnell, 1933 Worn by Margaret Whigham for her marriage to Charles Sweeny
Given and worn by Margaret, Duchess of Argyll
© Illustrated London News Ltd/Mary Evans

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

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. They used non-rationed fabrics such as upholstery materials, net curtaining and parachute silk, or married in a smart day dress or service uniform. On display is a buttercup patterned dress made in light-weight upholstery fabric by London dressmaker Ella Dolling (1941).

Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 also explores the growth of the wedding industry and the effect of increasing media focus on wedding fashions. Improvements in photography in the early 20th century encouraged photojournalism and society weddings were reported in detail in the national press and gossip columns. Two of the most spectacular wedding dresses on show are the Norman Hartnell dress made for Margaret Whigham (later Duchess of Argyll) for her marriage to Charles Sweeny (1933), and the Charles James ivory silk satin dress worn by Barbara 'Baba' Beaton for her marriage to Alec Hambro (1934). These dramatic dresses are shown alongside archive film and news clippings of the occasions as examples of society ‘celebrity’ weddings.

Victoria & Albert Museum Exposition Wedding Dresses 1775-2014
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Victoria & Albert Museum exposition view Wedding Dresses 1775-2014
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The mezzanine level features wedding garments from 1960 to 2014, taking the exhibition right up to date with Spring/Summer 2014 designs by Jenny Packham and Temperley Bridal. Emphasising the glamour and spectacle of weddings today, key designers will include Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano, Christian Lacroix, Lanvin, Vera Wang, Jasper Conran, Bruce Oldfield, Osman, Hardy Amies, Bellville Sassoon, Mr.Fish, John Bates, Jean Muir and Ian Stuart, with millinery by Philip Treacy and
Stephen Jones. This section explores the changing social and cultural attitudes to the wedding ceremony and marriage in the late 20th century and features examples of innovative and unconventional wedding outfits including dresses designed by Gareth Pugh and Pam Hogg for the weddings of Katie Shillingford (2011) and Mary Charteris (2012).
Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 has been curated by Edwina Ehrman, Curator of Textiles and Fashion at the V&A.
A version of the exhibition previously toured to Bendigo Art Gallery, Victoria, Australia (2011), Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (2011-12), National Museum of Singapore (2012) and Western Australian Museum, Perth, Australia (2012-13).
Tickets: £12 (concessions available)
V&A Members go free
For bookings visit (booking fee applies) or call 020 7420 9736
Cromwell Road
UK-London SW7 2RL
+44 (0)20-79422000

Silk and leather 'tango' shoes bought from Peter Robinson Ltd. of London, 1914
Worn by Phyllis Blaiberg for her marriage to Bertie Mayer Stone Given by Mrs B. Rackow
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Antique lace tiara created by Philip Treacy, London, 2008 Designed for Nina Farnell-Watson for her wedding to Edward Tryon
Private collection
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Pale grey slashed chiffon wedding dress designed by Gareth Pugh and veil by Stephen Jones, 2011 Worn by Katie Shillingford for her marriage to Alex Dromgoole
Courtesy of Katie Shillingford.
© Amy Gwatkin

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