With the excitement of planning a wedding I was really looking forward to seeing the V&A’s latest fashion exhibition, Wedding Dresses 1775-2014, because who doesn’t love to look at wedding gowns, especially when they include dresses worn by Gwen Stefani, Kate Moss and Dita Von Teese.
Spanning across two floors, much like last year’s Ballgowns exhibit, I much prefer this space in the V&A than the one currently occupied by the Glamour of Italian Fashion, there is more space and the dresses really do make more of an impact. However, unlike the recent John Paul Gaultier display at the Barbican, there isn’t anything special about this exhibition, well except the exquisitely crafted wedding gowns of course.
As much as I loved the history of the opening section exhibition, covering gowns from the last two centuries tracing the development of the white wedding dress, I wasn’t wowed by anything. I felt a lot of it had been covered before, the shapes and silhouettes of the dresses look like pieces out of the V&A archive, they just aren’t in white, and I wasn’t a fan of the inclusion of the Royal video, it would have been fine if the Duchess of Cambridge’s dress had been on display, it just felt a little bit of a tourist push to make the exhibition more popular with foreign visitors.
My favourite moment from the opening section was seeing socialite Margaret Whigham’s magnificent Norman Hartnell gown from when she married in 1933. Not only is this gown beautiful, a simple sheath dress with dramatic medieval-style hanging sleeves, but I loved how the 3.6-metre train was more sophisticated than dramatic – really suited the Thirties.
What I did love though was the mezzanine level featuring wedding garments from the last 50 years with an emphasis on the glamour and spectacle of weddings today, which of course includes celebrity weddings. Maybe it is because these dresses are more familiar, maybe it because they are a lot more grande, or maybe it is just because they were laid out nicer, but seeing these gorgeous couture gowns up close was amazing.
The first dress you see when you come up the stairs is the divine purple Vivienne Westwood ballgown-style wedding dress that was custom-made for Burlesque star Dita Von Teese in 2005. Not only am I a huge fan of Dita’s but this gown is so special, not only is the colour exquisite, it really does shimmer, but I loved the drama and the styling with the Stephen Jones hat – it really is a wow factor dress.
The celebrity moments really did make this exhibition for me, seeing Gwen Stefani’s John Galliano for Dior spray-painted pink wedding dresses was more stunning than I it looked in pictures. The colour really worked with the dress’s asymmetric construction and the pairing of such a romantic veil – this is how you marry a traditional gown with a modern twist and I love it. Also, I think Gwen had the best choice in shoes!!!
Another highlight was Ian Stuart’s Flower Bomb dress from 2011, I think this was because of its Southern Belle quality in the volume and drama of the skirt, my only wish was that it wasn’t trapped in a glass cabinet. Isn’t it beautiful, and I love the addition of the hat, for a bride who wants something a little different.
If you are a little wedding obsessed like me you will love this exhibition in parts, the modern dresses from the likes of Jenny Packham and Temperley London will have you gushing, but I think you might be a little disappointed not to see more couture.