This summer we were given a brief to attend 3 exhibitions and review them, I stayed in London for a week visiting family and friends and thought it was a good opportunity to do some research, and obviously who doesn’t love a trip to South Kensington. I caught a tube early so i could make the most of my day and made my way to exhibition street. I don’t know if it was just a nice day but the walk down put me in such a good mood, I even stopped off at a cute book store before I ended up at the Victoria and Albert Museum. I’d done my research so I knew the Wedding dress show was on, bought a ticket, £8 with student discount, even though I would have happily paid full price I thought it was considerate that they were so welcoming to students. I decided it best to have a look around before I went into the exhibit although there was way to much to see in one day! Everything was so beautiful and grand, so much attention to detail, even the entrance was amazing.
As I walked into the show i was faced with the dreaded sign, you know, the one that says “NO PHOTOS” i expected as much, however I was shocked to see another saying “NO SKETCHING” obviously as I felt this was very unreasonable, I ignored it. No one seemed to have a problem, one of the women checking tickets even lent me a pen when mine ran out.
As I walked round I noticed that although it went in order on one side, on the other side was a completely different time period, where I guess you were meant to walk back round in a loop, but by the time I had figured this out I had given up on sticking with the time line. In this sense I felt it was a but unorganized, I also felt the displays were dark and dim lighted, they didn’t show the gowns in their best light or at their best angle for that matter, as you could only see the area of each dress the way they wanted you too.
On a lighter note there had the history of each dress within it’s time context next to each display in interesting forms, most just in writing but some in videos or quotes, original letters that linked in as well as stories about how the couple met, lived and died.They also told you about everyone involved, the groom, the bridesmaids and even the dress makers. Mr. Stratton, apparently an exclusive dress maker, designed a dress for a princess of which they displayed the swatches and samples and even the embroidered napkins given to guests as favors. I most enjoyed that in some displays the original illustrations were laid out, this shows the progress made from thought to finish. It moved on to war time dresses where it described in detail the way even the richest of brides would “mend and make do” in a an effort to help the country in it’s time of need. I felt they gave you a lot more than expected in this way, because it was more than just looking at pretty dresses, it was how they have evolved, the people who were affected by them and how important a wedding is to society.
I later found there was another level to the experience, as I walked upstairs I expected more of the same, but thats not what I got, the space was open and bright, all the dresses were in glass cases that could be walked round. Although nothing was in order up here and there was no clear direction to walk it didn’t really matter. It was much more modern and the dresses were simply breathtaking! Still the stories continued, including one that was about some socialites from the 90’s the groom had married a woman that did not have the same social standing as him, she wore an almost completely backless dress. (which I quite liked) When most men see their bride walking down the isle I like to think they can’t take their eyes of her, they feel lucky to have the most beautiful woman in the room, however this bride groom as reported to have said she was “dressing for the press”. There were a lot of dresses I personally didn’t like and I felt as though some people in the lime light use their wedding as a place to make bold statements and for me, thats not what it should be about in the slightest. However I also saw some dresses that I could only dream of getting married in such as, The Rapunzel by Jenny Packham who is know for dressing people like, Kate Moss and Adel. The dress was embedded with Swarvoski crystal at the top but left more simple at the bottom, it was used in New York shows and inspired by the Edwardian era. Another of my favorites was by Ian Stuart called flower bomb, yet another never actually worn to a wedding, I quite liked the sketch I did of this one and here it is;
Although not my cup of tea, I liked that they showed dresses that were a bit more “out there” such as furry Eskimo like capes for December weddings and a plastic looking rain mac, both from the 60’s. This blened in to dresses from other countries such as Spain and even Sri Lanka! I was shocked to see they even included a dress worn for a Sex and the City Vouge photo shoot! However my all time favorite was seeing my first ever Vera Wang in person. I think that is every girls dream and if I haven’t sold you on the exhibit you can’t say no to Vera.
I really enjoyed my day out at the V&A and hope to return soon, I think the exhibit had it flaws but was still a beautiful collection of work paired with history and stories that will stay with me forever.