[Exhibition] Love, Desire, Riches – The Fashion of Weddings – and a contest

Please accept my apologies for neglecting to share some photos taken at the opening of this wonderful new National Trust exhibition. This exhibition opened a while ago, and closes at the end of this month but hopefully it’s not too late to go and see it now.

From the site:
The collection spans over 200 years of fashion, including pieces from the world-leading designers such as Valentino for Princess Marie Chantal of Greece. A mini retrospect of leading Australian designers – Akira Isogawa and Collette Dinnigan will showcase their fashion career.

Celebrity gowns include dresses designed for Jennifer Hawkins (Maticevski) and Kyly Clarke (Alex Perry) to film and television pieces worn by Kylie Minogue (as Charlene in Neighbours) to Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow and Meryl Streep.

What: Love, Desire, Riches – The Fashion of Weddings exhibition
When: 1st July until 30th September 2014, 10am to 4pm each day
Where:Rippon Lea, 192 Hotham St, Rippon Lea
Cost: between $4 -$15.
More information: at the website.

You can see me here at the opening with Tim and Alison Waters.

Tim, Alison, NJPhoto courtesy the National Trust.

More importantly, here are some pics from the exhibition itself. Firstly a few words.
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I’m always felt a little torn about wedding gown exhibitions: bridal fashions change much more slowly than other types of dress and often tend to the more conservative, especially before the ’90s. There was this idea about the virtuous woman, who was modest and reflected her social class, or the class she was marrying into. The results can be a little dull.

When you put older gowns up against their contemporaries, as is done here, there can be a bit of a clash – modern brides often like a sexier, more glamorous movie star, red carpet look.

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Here we also have several celebrity gowns and – a highlight for me – some choice film wedding costumes. There’s nothing like seeing something that you’ve only seen on screen for a few minutes in a long ago scene, up close where you can walk around it and look at that intriguing detail.

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It’s also a great opportunity to ooh and aah over how tiny the Victorian waistlines were. One in particular looks like you could put your hands around her waist. Much beauty too. Plus reminders that wedding gowns weren’t always white.

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One room is dedicated to the darker side of weddings with the banquet table set up for Miss Havisham’s cobwebbed feast and no fewer than three film costumes for the Dickens character. I appreciated the room: it gave light and shade to the fantasies elsewhere.

Upstairs is a room dedicated to the art of couture sewing, with an Akira bridal gown hand made from paper patterns, and vintage sewing tools like enormous scissors and antique mannequins. It’s a nice reminder of how much goes into creating the once-worn confections.

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I thought the setting particular apt, as weddings are personal and intimate affairs, celebrating the love of two people – Rippon Lea as both domestic and wedding venue resonated with the gowns more than a stark art gallery does. The older garments looked particularly at home amongst the sumptuous interiors.

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The men were not forgotten, with a room dedicated to manly attire appropriate for the occasion.

“Love, Desire, Riches” closes at the end of the month. I hope you can see it. If you’d like tickets, the National Trust have offered five double passes – to win one, please leave a comment about your favourite wedding gown – perhaps a famous one from history, cinema or even your own. Winners will be chosen at random and entries close Monday midnight. Good luck!

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  1. My favourite wedding dress? From the family collection: early 1930s Indian white muslin, calf-length, with a dropped waist, and embroidery in carmine red and burgundy. It may not have been used, as such, but it is the prettiest of frocks. The sort of thing to be accessoried with flat satin shoes, and a bandeau veil.

  2. My favourite is Queen Victoria’s wedding gown – she was the one who popularised white as a wedding colour, and it’s such a beautiful 1830s gown with its glamorous off-the-shoulder décolletage, rich lace and bell-shaped skirt, worn with a crown of orange blossoms.

    When her youngest daughter Beatrice married (at last; QV wanted B to be her personal secretary forever), Beatrice wore QV’s wedding lace, and was allowed to dress in Prince Albert’s bedroom (which, notoriously, was always kept as a memorial, with fresh linen as if Albert would return). The V&A has an album of fabric swatches from B’s trousseau.

    Anyway, that’s my favourite dress. When you see a curator standing next to it and absolutely dwarfing it you remember that QV was a tiny lady… but her impact on history, fashion and culture has been huge.

  3. My favourite wedding gown is that worn by both Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell at the end of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Iconic 50s style that was perfect for both actresses. This has always been my dream wedding dress.

  4. For me it is a close race between two. There is gown as worn by Vanessa Redgrave in the movie Camelot – lots of intricate work, but also the ingenuity, utilising a variety of materials, including of all things pumpkin seeds. But that is narrowly outdone by ‘La Sposa’, bridal ensemble created by Versace for the 1993 marriage of Francesca Von Thyssen (I’ve no idea who she is really beyond the fact that she is Austrian nobility). The gown is simplicity and elegance, featuring an ivory cashmere coat trimmed with brocade. I had the opportunity to see this up very close and personal in 2000 and the elegance and design of the piece definitely left an impression on me.

  5. Thanks for this post, Nicole. My favourite wedding gown to date is the beautiful pink silk faille Dior couture dress that Gwen Stefani wore to her marriage to Gavin Ross. It is both romantic and just a bit different with deep rose at the hem of the gown gently fading through to palest blush pink. John Galliano, the designer, may be troubled and eccentric, but there is no doubting his incredible talent. It also helps that Gwen Stefani is beautiful and her husband is not bad either!

  6. Thanks for your entries – the random generator has selected the following winners:
    Mel, Sandy, Sarah, Alison and Lucy.

    Congratulations, ladies – I shall pass your contact details onto the exhibition organiser and she will get in touch soon with tickets.

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