How do changes in bridal fashion reflect changes in society? That is the question asked in the women’s Museum of California’s latest exhibit, The Big White Dress.
The wedding day is a significant and highly coveted transitional event in the life of American women. As women, we are taught at a young age that we should find our one true love and invite family and friends to witness the beginning of a lifelong union in blissful matrimony. Imagine a girl of twelve using the curtains in her bedroom as a veil, pretending to walk down the aisle to meet the love of her life, wearing her perfect version of a wedding gown while Chapel of Love by The Dixie Cups plays on the radio. The mental image of a hopeful girl immersed in her own imagination is familiar and brings up feelings of expectation, love, and wonder. While not all women choose to get married, it is certainly an event that has been ingrained in the minds of all girls growing up.
The current concept of the American wedding has remained in place for almost 200 years. An American girls’ vision of what the wedding day will look like, is an idea that is planted in girls’ minds at a young age. Television, magazines, movies, and more importantly the conversations of other women give American girls ideas of how they would make their wedding day completely their own. What the dress should look like, where the reception should be held, how big the wedding cake should be, and what kind of flowers she would like. This exhibition will tell the story of the evolution of American weddings by taking the visitor on a historic tour through a timeline of wedding gown styles beginning with the 1860s. The Big White Dress examines how trends in gown fashion are directly linked to pop culture. It is a fact that fashion is heavily influenced by social and cultural events and wedding gowns are no exception. This exhibit will also delve into the evolution women’s feelings towards the institution of marriage and how that has transformed with each era since the late nineteenth century.
This exhibit celebrates over 150 years of bridal fashion by vintage dresses from various decades. From the romantic customs of proper Victorians, to rising hemlines and breaking with strict morals in the 1920s, to the whirlwind nuptial extravaganzas of the 21st century, The Big White Dress will investigate how the relationship between the wedding tradition and the progression of American culture has made the tradition more meaningful, more popular, and more distinctive.
Nikki Saputo-Menn, Curator of The Big White Dress
The Big White Dress will be on display at the Women’s Museum of California from May 4th – July 1st