From tiered meringues to cascading lace, a wedding dress has long been considered one of the most important and wonderful things that a woman will wear in her life. Weighted in tradition, romance, hope and style, it stands for her past and her future. No other garment has ever enthralled society quite like a wedding dress. The V&A’s new exhibition, Wedding Dresses 1775 – 2014, offers a look at the age-old ceremonial tradition, tracing back bridal clothing to the 18th century and charting its history and progression in style. From Norman Hartnell’s dress for Margaret Whigham (1933) to Dita Von Teese’s purple number by Vivienne Westwood, or Barbara 'Baba’ Beaton’s gown by couturier Charles James, the exhibition exudes nostalgia, intimacy and glamour. Lisa Butcher and Marco Pierre White’s wedding outfits are also on display, which sadly have outlived the marital bond itself, as they famously separated after only 15 days. Accessories include headwear by Philip Treacy and Stephen Jones.
Of course, AnOther’s favourite dress in the exhibition has to be that of our Fashion Director Katie Shillingford, who married Alex Dromgoole in 2011, wearing a pale grey, slashed chiffon dress by friend and collaborator, Gareth Pugh. “I knew I wanted to get married and to wear a dress that was one of a kind but I didn't ever imagine it to be big or white,” Shillingford explains. “When Alex proposed I didn’t have a fixed idea at all. I just wanted to look and feel as beautiful as I could, and I knew that I wanted Gareth to make my dress.” Here AnOther speak to Shillingford about her special day.
Can you describe your wedding dress?
My wedding dress is dove grey, slashed chiffon, floor length with a cape/train integrated into the sleeves made by Gareth Pugh.
What inspired the shape and style?
I picked out a couple of dresses from a previous season (S/S10) and tried them on. One was slashed dark grey and the other was striped light grey and dark grey, both were floor length. I remember taking them to my mum’s house and trying them on for her too. Surprisingly (because she normally hates what I like), she loved both but I went with the slashed style… and it sort of evolved from that.
I remember sending Gareth an image of Ginger Rogers wearing an amazing cape and he worked a cape/train into the sleeves of the dress, so that part of it had a bit of a 1930's influence. It was a long process of fitting and working out what was right for my body and a balance between what is beautiful and what I could be fairly comfortable in for a whole day!
Do you know how long it took Gareth to make the dress?
About 9 months I think.
What is your favorite memory from your wedding day?
It was definitely the best day of my life so far! Although I think I nearly broke my neck trying to do the conga in that dress.
Do you have a favourite wedding dress?
Stephanie Seymour's dress in Guns 'n' Roses' November Rain.
Wedding Dresses 1775 – 2014 at the Victoria and Albert MUseum opens May 3 and runs until March 15.
Text by Mhairi Graham