Inspirational Illustrations: Brides of the Month

1960s, barbara hulanicki, Honey Magazine, Illustrations, weddings

I wouldn’t normally post pictures of wedding dresses, but check out who the illustrator is. Oh yes, one Ms. Barbara Hulanicki!

Honey, January 1965. Scanned by Miss Peelpants.

Here comes the bride…

iain r. webb, the fashion museum, weddings

…looking like, well, every other bride. One of my pet peeves is the current “phenomenon” where wedding dresses are concerned. If you watch an entire series of ‘Don’t Tell The Bride’ on BBC3 (which I haven’t done. Honest. Well, ok, maybe I have…) you might come away with the impression that wedding dress manufacturers have only got one dress on offer, then coming with various additional swags and sparkles but basically just the one silhouette. It’s the strapless cake. Oh yes.

This is not a strapless cake. It’s brilliantly bonkers!

The fact that all the Frustrated Bridezillas appear to faint with delight upon being strapped into something so vile, despite perhaps having bleated on for the whole episode about wanting something ‘different’ to the norm, confirms my belief that most brides lose all sense of reality somewhere along the way…

As a caveat, and as you can tell from what I’ve already written, I should point out that I’m probably not the best person to be reviewing an exhibition about wedding dresses… but, in the interests of being a good blogger, I went along anyway!

It was actually quite refreshing to take a look at The Fashion Museum’s current exhibition, What Will She Wear, which, despite the slightly cheesy Royal undertones in the title, is a wonderfully curated exhibition of Bath’s collection of wedding dresses down the years. As the ever lovely Iain R. Webb explained to me, they weren’t trying to create any kind of timeline or demonstrate particularly defining styles of any era. In fact, the pieces are grouped together in themes: silhouettes, fabrics, types of decorations. It’s certainly fascinating to see a Gina Fratini wedding dress alongside the Victorian styles which influenced her. Or a Bruce Oldfield facing a Victor Stiebel, both slimline and simple in silhouette, but a good sixty years apart.

It casts aside notions of one style for one era, which intrigued me. My mother was married in the prevailing ’empire line’ style, which had been popularised by John Bates’s mid-Sixties bridal designs for Jean Varon and continued to be popular until the late Seventies. Judging by many of the images you see from this era, you might be forgiven for thinking that it was the only style on offer, much like the modern ‘cake’ shape. But if all the ‘I wore this for my wedding’ Ossies I’ve seen down the years, and someone like the gorgeous Elegancemaison in her Biba coat and trousers, are anything to go by then there was a far wider variety of styles on offer at the time. It’s just a question of what you want to say about yourself as a person. Frankly, I think it’s the last time in your life you’d want to be thinking ‘I’ll have what she had!’.

A dear friend of mine is getting married towards the end of this year, and I couldn’t be more excited for her. (She knows I’m going to disown her if she turns up in a meringue! Only joking…. or am I?) So I’m not totally immune to the excitement of a wedding, despite my snippy cynicism I’m a big old romantic deep down. I just wish that more people would show a bit of imagination!

If you’re in or near Bath then I would recommend a trip to the Fashion Museum to see the exhibition. Unsurprisingly, thanks to Iain’s involvement, it’s been curated in a gorgeous editorial-style with newly-handmade white flower headdresses and corsages to unify the displays. I’m a bit of a museum purist, I have to admit, but I think this works very well in an exhibition which doesn’t try to be purist about its subject matter, just instinctive.

There’s also a series of beautiful photographs from the Worth archive, which are well worth a look as well!

What Will She Wear at The Fashion Museum, Bath until 8th January 2012.