The wedding dress holds a special place in our hearts and minds. Wedded Perfection, on view at the Munson Williams Proctor Art Institute in Utica, NY through September 18, 2011, features more than 50 gowns that will truly capture your imagination.
Each gown is displayed on a perfectly-fitted mannequin adorned with paper hair to fit the style of the era in which the gown was created. Extended labels accompany each gown, sharing information about the bride, wedding fashion, and fashion designers. Each gown expresses the personal taste of the bride who originally wore it, within the fashion context of her time.
The exhibit is spread throughout the museumís many galleries. Some spaces are exclusively used for Wedded Perfection, while some gowns are nestled among works of art from the permanent collection in other galleries. The exhibit seems to work best in galleries where there are no other pieces of art competing for attention.
The oldest gown in the exhibit is a green floral silk brocade two-piece gown that was worn around 1735 by Mary Waters of Boston. It was restyled in 1763 when Maryís daughter wore it in her own wedding. It has been well taken care of and is in amazing condition for its age.
Some of the most amazing bridal creations date to the Victorian period, in the 1870s and 1880s. Gowns in this era usually feature elaborate bustles, supported by wire cages or stuffed pillows worn at the rear of the dress. The wedding gowns in the exhibit feature layers of fabric, orange blossoms, beading, fringe, and all of the high-style elements of Victorian fashion.
A wedding journal recording expenses accompanies Ada Maria Davisís 1874 wedding gown. In neat 19th century script, she recorded each dollar spent on her wedding and trousseau, totaling $667.16. Entries include invitation postage, bustle, orange blossoms, fabric, lace and sewing supplies.
Wedding gowns from the early 20th century are simpler in design. In the 1910s, the Edwardian style became prominent. Dresses from this era in the exhibit feature layers of delicate lace, often with high necklines.
The Roaring Twenties ushered in a whole new aesthetic. All three gowns in the exhibit from this era feature a shortened hemline and dropped waist. Winifred Millerís 1924 dress is a dark blue and brown sheath, trimmed in ostrich feathers.
The exhibit explores the fact that not all women wore white on their wedding day, for a variety of reasons. Some wanted to wear a dress they could reuse later on. Others could not afford an elaborate white wedding gown. During World War II, many brides married their sweethearts on a short timeline, dictated by the militaryís plans to deploy the newlywed husband. War brides often chose a smart suit, perhaps even something she already had in her closet. The non-white dresses included in the exhibit are as stunning as the white gowns.
The exhibit also features gowns by famous designers, including Vera Wang, Bob Mackie, and avant-garde artist Christo. A Gothic wedding dress from 2000 is a unique personal statement, featuring black velvet embellished with gold embroidery and black feather angel wingís attached to the brideís back.
Three gowns were featured in television weddings on the soap opera All My Children. Two of them were worn in 2009 at a lesbian wedding, the first ever broadcast on daytime TV.
Wedded Perfection was originally displayed at and organized for travel by the Cincinnati Art Museum. Many of the gowns included in the exhibit are from the museumís own permanent collection. The Munson Williams Proctor Art Institute is the only other venue scheduled to display this amazing exhibition.
The author paid full admission to view Wedded Perfection at the Munson Williams Proctor Institute in Utica, NY. She was not compensated in any way for this review. The cost of the exhibit catalog at the Munson Williams Proctor Instituteís museum shop was $35.