W for Wedding Dresses and the V & A Museum

‘Make it short & snappy’

W for wandering around the V&A Museum gazing with wonder or wondering “what were they thinking?!” at the Wedding Dress exhibition.

I’ve never been one to take much interest in fashion, wedding dresses however are another ball game (or ball gown if you’ll indulge me with that horrendous link!). They fascinate many and inspire passionately heated debates and discussion. Here’s a romp through from 1775 to 2014.

‘Just the facts please’

  • V&A Wedding Dress Exhibition based on dresses from 1775-2014
  • Twitter: @V_and_A
  • Website for V&A Museum: http://www.vam.ac.uk
  • Exhibition open: 3rd May 2014 – 15th March 2015
  • Timings: Daily 10.00-17.30 (last ticket sold 16.45, last entry 17.00),
  • Friday 10.00-22.00 (last ticket sold 20.45, last entry 21.00)
  • Address: Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL
  • Phone: 020 7942 2000
  • Cost: £13.50 Full, including donation (+£1.80 booking fee per ticket), cheaper without donations or if concession.

Three boutiques I pass regularly:

‘I’ve got a cup of tea, tell me all about it…’

As the season steps cautiously into Spring, wedding season once more raises its veil and steps into the limelight. 2012 was my year of weddings, with seven to attend in a short three month period.

It was glorious going from one to another seeing a traditional strand linking them all and having the happy couple make their personal mark on each. They ranged from traditional and almost regal all the way through to endearingly handcrafted, each having their own nuances and little touches, which I took delight in noticing and appreciating the work involved. The wedding dress was always a subject to discuss and had twittering girls circle the bride to get a closer look at all the little details.

I was interested to see what the V&A would produce and went with a female friend to ogle, ‘ooh’, and of course critique!


The exhibition starts with a historical look at gowns through the ages, examining fashions and how they evolved. In summary, there were a lot of frumpy, poofy, uncomfortable looking lace doilies going on.

Reminds me of a lampshade!

Reminds me of a lampshade!

There were a series of fashions to have giant puffy sleeves, very puritan looking outfits and elaborate headwear. I’ve just seen through researching that the particularly ungainly flouncy wide sleeves from shoulder to wrist are called “imbecile” or “idiot” sleeves! According to the Greenwood Encyclopedia of Clothing Through World History (yes it exists), it wasn’t because it made them look ‘stoopid’, it was because

“it was supposedly based off the kind of jackets used to restrain the mad.”

There you go a fact I suspect you didn’t know. Take that as you will. Along with the photo above there was this one, which was particularly cumbersome!

Taking centre stage downstairs was an amazing dress with a stretching trail that demanded attention.

Upstairs was the modern section leading with Dita Von Teese’s spectacular vivid purple wedding dress designed to turn heads. You’d expect nothing less!

The daring use of injecting some colour and pizazz into the dresses led us to Gwen Stefani’s pink dip dyed layered effect. Others that had generously lent or donated to the collection were Kate Moss and HRH Duchess of Cornwall. It was amazing to think these were the actual real dresses they wore on one of the most special days of their lives, here for us to examine behind a glass cage.

Below is a selection of the more unusual and less featured dresses I saw. To see some of the most photographed ones, have a look at some other lovely photos to gaze at from the Museum exhibition via Pinterest.

One thing it would have been nice to have would have been a little more interaction, as there was a lot of peering through glass. The videos were great, especially that showcasing the Royal princess dresses.

In addition, it would have been lovely to have had some samples of fabric for the dresses to feel to really experience the textures. Often a key part of textiles is the luxury of touch; experiencing how the silk, taffeta or organza would feel against your skin and make you feel on your day as you parade down the aisle with all eyes on you. You don’t want something scratchy, too warm or too heavy. You want to glide, serene as a swan with heads turning and mouths dropping open with awe.

Or maybe to hear sounds of the swish as the dress brushed against the floor, the giggles of flower girls, or have access to the overpowering scent of flowers as you enter the church, or the smell of wooden pews and varnish. That would have really set the scene and made it feel more tangible.

I wonder whether wedding boutiques employ any of this sensory scene-setting to help you feel how you would on the big day. I’ve found in my local area there are now three bridal boutiques that have been set up, one brand new and one in the process of being extended all linked above. It’s big business as we all know, expensive too, I wonder how they go about creating the right atmosphere and what an exhibition of our times in the future will look like.


One response to “W for Wedding Dresses and the V & A Museum

  1. Pingback: Full on February Alphabet Challenge – Complete! | MishMashTash·

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