From talking to the Curator of Costume at The Victoria and Albert Museum I know that shortly they will be having an exhibition on wedding dresses. My understanding is that
there will be a real range of dresses from the old to the modern, from traditional to cutting edge design. I cant wait, it should be fabulous.
I have made the decision to keep my wedding dress for Fifi, I had it cleaned and it is packed away to museum standards waiting for the day when she shows an interest. Occasionally I get it out and look at it. It wasn’t an expensive dress, it was a fairly simple style. I didn’t want anything too frou-
frou or toilet-roll holder. When we were looking we went to Dickens and Jones in Regent Street and tried on a selection of dresses. The one I fell in love with cost over £3000, that was
never going to happen. I went to Liberty and wept over the beauty of the Vera Wang dresses.
Of course, these dresses are an investment, if you can look after them properly they will keep a large part of their value and that will only increase in time. However, I suspect that most people don’t really know how to properly look after textiles to minimise long term damage. Those dresses are not for ordinary girls like me from ordinary back-grounds. I often think that most of these dresses and weddings are not for ordinary people, why do people saddle themselves with so much debt before they have even begun married life?
I contemplated something designer but dressy and not all that ‘wedding’. In the end I wanted to look the part, I wanted to look like a classic bride. Ideally, I wanted something 1950’s in style, however that was impossible at the time as it wasn’t fashionable enough and I wasn’t brave enough to employ someone to make something for me in case it didn’t suit me. I looked at hundreds of dresses and must have tried on nearly a hundred before I found something within my budget (the price still shocks me to the core as I am quite frugal and it was only worn for a day) and which suited me. I love the dress I got, it was perfect. I’m very grateful to my patient mother who must have been driven totally mad!
Since the Victorian/ Edwardian period wedding dresses seem to have either been handed
down and worn by generations of women. We have a dress in our museum collection that was worn by three generations of women from the same family. Of course, there were often reasons other than sentimentality for this, one being the Second World War- time restrictions on fabric and buttons, meaning that mothers vintage dress would have been by far the best option. However, this is proof that wedding dress can defy fashion and trends. It’s a day for you to indulge in your taste or ideals.
I didn’t wear my mums dress, she wasn’t too keen on me wearing an old thing, but also I don’t think there would have been any chance of it fitting me. She still has it though carefully packaged up. On reflection this is a bit of a shame, particularly as we were actually married on my parents thirtieth wedding anniversary.
A friend of mine has converted her dress into a robe for her children’s christening, I know of others who have had cushions made, framed panels. I simply couldn’t do this to my dress, I cant bring myself to damage it. Within its fabric is the very structure of our marriage somehow. The perfection of the day, is intimately linked with my dress. It must be there for me to look at and for Fifi to see. I would be very upset if anything happened to it. This is quite odd for me as I am not the least bit sentimental about my kids first baby clothes.
I don’t think my dress will become a valuable heirloom, however entwined within its fabric is our hopes, our aspirations and a tangible memory of the day. It’s one you can feel and remember. There are not many objects like this which can take you directly back to a moment. Costume is one of these things, its a direct link, it can tell you about body shape, taste, give you a direct feeling of the moment, even the noise of the fabric evokes (and creates) strong memories. This is why I love curating costume and one of the reasons why I find it hard to part with clothes.
How do you feel about your wedding dress; are you keeping it for your children and their children? Is it a modern heirloom? Was your dress a family heirloom? Would you consider donating it to a museum?