Singaporebrides | Fashion

August 2012

The Wedding Dress: An Exhibition


Singapore, 8 August 2012 – A wedding dress conjures an image of romance and fairy tale, playing an undeniable role in commemorating the day a blushing bride says ‘I do’. Throughout the years, the wedding dress has evolved, undergoing significant transformation in style and interpretation, but its symbolic function remains unchanged. This August, the National Museum of Singapore is proud to present an extraordinary collection of wedding dresses from the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) for the pure enjoyment of couples, young and old.

Ms Lee Chor Lin, Director of the National Museum of Singapore, says, “These beautiful wedding dresses not only tell the personal stories of their wearers, but mirror the economic and social conditions of the time from the early 1800s to the present day. We collaborated closely with the V&A to bring these stories to life, and complemented them with a Singapore section featuring stunning pieces from our own collection.”

Ms Beth McKillop, Deputy Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London adds, “The Victoria and Albert Museum is delighted to work with the National Museum of Singapore for the first time, presenting Wedding Dress to the Singapore audience. We believe that our relationship with the Museum will be a long and happy one, and we thank everyone who has worked with us to make the exhibition possible.”

The Evolution of the Lace Wedding Gown. Left: Wedding dress with long bell sleeves by Sylvia Kho, French lace, 1970s, Singapore, Donated by Mrs Sylvia Kho. Centre: Wedding Dress with tulle skirt and headband by Goh Lai Chan, French lace, beads, diamantés, chiffon, 1990, Singapore. Right: Bustier wedding dress designed by Peter Kor, French lace, silk satin, 2011, Singapore, Donated by the Family of Professor and Mrs Walter Tan.

With a showcase of more than 80 artefacts which comprises 36 wedding dresses, eight bridegroom’s attires and 43 accessories including lingerie, gloves, bags, and shoes, visitors will be transported to a world inspired by tradition and fantasy, and mesmerised by lavish gowns designed by some of the biggest names in international fashion, such as Norman Hartnell, John Galliano, Vivienne Westwood and Vera Wang.

The Singapore section, titled ‘The Wedding Dress in Singapore’, features 12 colourful and intricate wedding costumes worn by the different ethnic groups here, in both Western and traditional styles. In addition, the Preservations Monuments Board (PMB) will launch a corresponding showcase titled ‘Monumental Weddings’, a collection of about 150 rare archival and contemporary wedding photographs, come September.

The Wedding Dress: 200 Years of Wedding Fashion from the Victoria & Albert Museum, London is categorised into nine sections:

Creating Traditions:

1800 – 1840 explores wedding fashions in early 19th century Britain when white was becoming established as the fashionable choice for wealthy brides. However most women, particularly those on low incomes, wore coloured fabrics.

Silk wedding dress, British, 1857. Worn by Margaret Scott Lang for her marriage to Henry Scott in London in 1857. Given by Miss C. M. Higgs. ©Victoria and Albert Museum / V&A Images

The Victorian Bride and Bridegroom:

1837 – 1901 sees the time when white bridal garments started to be described as traditional rather than just fashionable, and the bridegroom’s outfit became darker and more standardised.

Artistic Styles:

1900 – 1930s explores the emergence of styles that were inspired by historical costumes, where women sought to create a distinctive identity from other women. This era sees the rise of designers, such as Norman Hartnell, as well as couture houses in London.

The Society Wedding

1920s – 1930s shines the spotlight on weddings in Britain’s high society after the First World War, where much media attention was given in the form of photographs and gossip columns.

The Alternative Wedding Dress. Left: Wedding dress and coat designed by John Bates for his Jean Varon label, London, 1966. Cotton gabardine trimmed with silvered PVC. Worn by Marit Allen for her marriage to Sandy Lieberson in London on 10 June 1966. ©Victoria and Albert Museum / V&A Images. Right: Silk gauze dress, 1938. Worn by Monica Maurice for her marriage to Dr Arthur Newton Jackson at the Chapel of Our Lady in Rotheram, Yorkshire. Given by the family of Monica Maurice. ©Victoria and Albert Museum / V&A Images.

From Austerity to the ‘New Look’:

1939 – 1951 were years that struggled with shortages due to the Second World War. Dress fabric was strictly rationed but this did not deter resourceful women from turning to materials like upholstery for their wedding dresses.

Innovation and Individuality:

1950s – 1970s, in these post-war years, quality ready-to- wear clothing competed with the high fashion market for consumers. While wedding dresses were made available to the masses, a niche group of young designers catered specially to the tastes of youthful consumers who wanted unique pieces.

Nostalgia, Romance and the Modern Age:

1970s – early 2000s witnessed a revival of historical styles and the return of the more fashion-focussed gowns.

The Celebrity Wedding:

1990s – 2000s saw the growth of the wedding industry and the rise in media coverage of celebrity weddings, encouraging brides to spend more lavishly on their dress and wedding celebrations.

Shot taffeta wedding dress, Vivienne Westwood Couture. Velvet and shot taffeta tricorne hat with dyed mink pom- poms, Stephen Jones, London, 2005. Lent by and designed for Dita Von Teese.Silk faille wedding dress and silk net veil decorated with antique lace, John Galliano for Dior, Paris, 2002. Lent by and designed for Gwen Stefani for her marriage to Gavin Rossdale on 14 September 2002 in London ©Victoria and Albert Museum.

The Wedding Dress in Singapore is a complementary section, showcasing wedding dresses worn by different ethnic groups in Singapore. This section traces the popularity of the Western-style wedding dress and the enduring qualities of the traditional wedding costume.

Qun Gua, silk, silk satin, gold and silver threads, 1953, Singapore, donated by Mdm Chia Wai Ching.Malay bride and bridegroom’s ensemble, Songket, 1960s – 1970s, Trengganu, Malaysia.Left: Eurasian bridal gown, Silk Crêpe, lace, silk satin, 1930s, Singapore. Right: Wedding Sari with matching choli (blouse) and a wedding veil, brocade, silk satin, lace, beads, tulle, 1964, Singapore, donated by Mrs Leaena Tambyah.

The Wedding Dress: 200 Years of Wedding Fashion from the Victoria & Albert Museum, London opens on Wednesday, 8 August to Wednesday, 31 October 2012 in Exhibition Gallery 1 and The Canyon, basement level, of the National Museum of Singapore. The exhibition is open from 10am to 6pm daily, and tickets are priced at S$11 (including handling fees). For the month of August, as a gift to the nation, tickets are priced at only S$6 (including handling fees) for Singaporeans and PRs only.

Credits:Featured image: Embroidered silk satin wedding dress designed by Norman Hartnell, London, 1933. Commissioned by Margaret Whigham for her marriage to Charles Sweeny on 21 February 1933. Given and worn by Margaret, Duchess of Argyll ©Victoria and Albert Museum / V&A Images.

All images provided by and © National Museum of Singapore unless otherwise stated.

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The Wedding Dress: An Exhibition