Exhibition | Wedding Dresses, 1775–2014

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on March 17, 2014

Press release for the upcoming exhibition at the V&A (also see the exhibition blog). . .

Wedding Dresses, 1775–2014
Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 3 May 2014 — 15 March 2015

Curated by Edwina Ehrman


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The V&A’s spring 2014 exhibition will trace 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 will feature over 80 of the most romantic, glamorous and extravagant wedding outfits from the V&A’s collection. It will include important new acquisitions as well as loans such as the embroidered silk coat design 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 will focus on bridal wear. Most of the outfits were worn in Britain, by brides of many faiths. Alongside the dresses will be accessories including jewellery, shoes, garters, veils, wreaths, hats and corsetry as well as fashion sketches and personal photographs. Garments worn by bridegrooms and attendants will also be on display. The exhibition will investigate 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.


Silk brocade gown, hat, and shoes, 1780. Olive Matthews Collection, Chertsey Museum. Photo by John Chase.

The opening section of the exhibition will feature some of the earliest examples of wedding fashion including a silk satin court dress (1775) and a ‘polonaise’ style brocade gown with straw bergère hat (1780) lent by the Chertsey Museum. The preference for white in the 19th century will be demonstrated by a white muslin wedding dress decorated with flowers, leaves and berries (1807) recently acquired by the V&A, and a wedding outfit embellished with pearl beads design by Charles Frederick Worth (1880). As the 19th century drew to a close historical costume influenced fashion. A fine example will be 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 will 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 will be a buttercup patterned dress made in light-weight upholstery fabric by London dressmaker Ella Dolling (1941).

Wedding Dresses 1775–2014 will also explore 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 will be 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 will be seen alongside archive film and news clippings of the occasions as examples of society ‘celebrity’ weddings.

The mezzanine level will feature 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 and Jean Muir, with millinery by Philip Treacy and Stephen Jones. This section will explore the changing social and cultural attitudes to the wedding ceremony and marriage in the late 20th century and will feature 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).

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).

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From the V&A:

Edwina Ehrman, The Wedding Dress: 300 Years of Bridal Fashions, 2nd edition (London: V&A Publishing, 2014), 208 pages, ISBN 978-1851778133, £30 / $50.

9781851777839_p0_v2_s600This sumptuous book draws on wedding garments in the V&A’s collection, photographs, letters, memoirs, newspaper accounts and genealogical research to explore the history of the wedding dress and the traditions that have developed around it since 1700. It focuses on the white wedding dress, which became fashionable in the early nineteenth century and is now chosen by women across the world. The book considers the way couturiers and designers have challenged and refreshed the traditional white dress and the influence of the wedding industry, whose antecedents lie in the commercialization of the wedding in Victorian Britain. The Wedding Dress is not only about costume, but also about the cultivation of the image of the bride. This book is a glorious tribute to an exquisite, stylish, glamorous gown, the romance of its evolution and the splendour of its design.

Edwina Ehrman is a curator of Textiles and Fashion at the V&A and of the exhibition The Wedding Dress: 300 Years of Bridal Fashions. She is co-author of The London Look: Fashion from Street to Catwalk and a contributor
to The Englishness of English Dress.

Call for Panel Proposals | 2016 Congress in the History of Art, Beijing

Posted in Calls for Papers by Editor on March 17, 2014

As posted at CAA News (14 March 2014), From the International Committee of the History of Art (Comité International de l’Histoire de l’Art, known as CIHA) and from the conveners of the Beijing Committee for the Congress: Professors LaoZhu, Fan Di’an, and Shao Dazhen.

Thirty-Fourth Congress in the History of Art
Beijing, September 2016

Session Proposals are due by 10 April 2014

The organizing committee for the thirty-fourth Congress in the History of Art, which will take place in Beijing, China, in September 2016, warmly invites expressions of interest from the international community of art historians. The concepts for the sessions are outlined below. We ask for expressions of interest from scholars who wish to develop these themes as session chairs.

Each session will have an international chair and a Chinese chair. A Chinese chair may be from Chinese mainland, Taiwan, or abroad. An early career researcher might serve as associate chair, if necessary. The two cochairs (and an early career researcher, if there is one) will act as a committee to define and refine the session’s concept for the preliminary congress in 2015, and to select presenters for the major congress in Beijing in 2016.

Applications for chairs may be made by academics or independent scholars. We want to remind applicants that no member of the CIHA board, and no one having been a chair in the Nuremberg Congress in 2012, can apply for serving as chair of a session at the Beijing Congress.

Applicants should:

1. Be thoroughly acquainted with the most recent developments in the field of art history relevant to the topic of their session
2. Be able to develop the chosen concept by organizing relevant symposia and workshops before 2016, to initiate dialogue and discussion, and to identify important issues for discussion at CIHA 2016 in Beijing
3. Be able to identify global experts in the appropriate fields and to collaborate with them
4. To be present at CIHA 2016 in Beijing

Applicants should send the following to the CIHA scientific secretary with copy to Chinese committee:
1. Number and title of the proposed session
2. 1–2 pages explaining the perspective they intend to give to the session and the main ideas they would like to be developed and discussed
3. A first draft of the call for papers to be developed with the Chinese chair if the session is selected
4. A short CV stressing the activities and publications related to the session

The deadline for applications is April 10, 2014. The list of the chairs will be established during the CIHA board meeting in Marseilles, France (June 25, 2014) and immediately announced on CIHA website and the Beijing Congress website.

Session Themes

The sessions as defined by the National Committee of the People’s Republic of China and the International Committee for the History of Art are as follows:

1. Words and Concepts【语词与概念】

2. The Rank of Art【标准与品评】

3. Imagination and Projection【想象与投射】

4. Appreciation and Utility【欣赏与实用】

5. Self-Awareness or Self-Affirmation【自觉与自律】

6. Politics of Identity: Tradition and Origin【传统与渊源】

7. Translation and Change【流传与嬗变】

8. Art and Taboo【禁忌与教化】

9. Autonomy and Elusion【独立与超脱】

10. Gendered Practices【性别与妇女】

11. Landscape and Spectacle【风景与奇观】

12. Garden and Courtyard【园林与庭院】

13. Transmission and Adoption【传播与接受】

14. Othering and Foreignness【他者与陌生】

15. Creative Misunderstanding【误解与曲用】

16. Commodity and Market【商品与市场】

17. Display and Observation【展示与观看】

18. Media and Visuality【媒体与视觉】

19. History of Beauty vs. History of Art【审美与艺术史】

20. Professional Education and Aesthetic Education【专业与美育】

21. Connecting Art Histories and World Art【多元与世界】

Full session theme descriptions are available at CAA News»

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