13 March 2015

Wedding Dresses at the V&A

I will admit that wedding dresses is not the obvious thing for me to go and see an exhibition on but this was the V&A and they do exceedingly good exhibitions on fashion.

I had intended to go to see Wedding Dresses for many months, the exhibition started in May 14 and I knew that it was coming before then, but, predictably, I finally got to see it just two days before it closed in March 15.

I was in London for something else that morning and had taken a day's holiday to take in an exhibition in the afternoon before going to the theatre.

I got to the V&A at 1:30pm and joined the short queue for a timed ticket. The exhibition was clearly busy but was not sold out. I opted for a 2pm ticket to give me time for lunch in the cafe first. After a very leisurely lunch that featured some sort of butternut squash pie, I went in to the exhibition around 2:20pm expecting it to take about an hour which would leave me just about enough time to get to another exhibition at RIBA that was also due to close shortly.

The exhibition was busy but following the slow queue around the outer circle of the lower floor allowed me to see everything and in chronological order too. There were a few other men there, just not very many.

The displays were of typical wedding dresses of the middle class (mostly) and it was interesting to see how the shapes, styles and colours changed over the years. It was also interesting to learn that wedding dresses used to have a life after the big day, much like a smart lounge suit work by a bridegroom today has.

One of my favourite dresses on the lower level was a fairly simple purple dress that looked just like the sort of thing that one of the smart ladies in Lark Rise to Candleford would wear.

Upstairs was a completely different affair and introduced the exotic world of contemporary designed dresses many of which were worn by the rich and famous.

The first of these was the full purple dress worn by Dita Von Teese on her wedding to Marilyn Manson in 2005, as seen in the photo above. Photography was banned in the exhibition (they had a book to sell) but I was able to take this one from outside when sitting among the statues in the long corridor on the ground floor.

A few of the dresses were outrageous, one even upset the bridegroom because of its revealing nature, but most were very pretty and a few were just stunning.

The star of the show, in my opinion, was 'Flower Bomb designed by Ian Stuart which, conveniently, was at the back of the exhibition and so could be viewed clearly from the metalworks section on the first floor.

My objective measure of how much I like an exhibition is the amount of time I spent in there and for Wedding Dresses I expected to take an hour but took almost two. And given that it was not physically a very large exhibition that meant a lot of time looking at and reading about each dress.

The one disappointment that I had with the exhibition was the lack of context. I presumed that most of the examples on the lower floor were typical but those on the upper floor clearly were not so I left not knowing what wedding dresses look like today or what they cost. None of the exhibits had any prices on which surprised me.

It was a fairly exhausting two hours too so I had no option but to go back to the cafe for a pot of tea and the first scone of the season.

That the V&A could make wedding dresses so interesting to me is a testament to their curating skills and reinforced my determination to see more of the same, starting with Alexander McQueen which had just opened.

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