A History of Marriage
June 2 > April 16, 2017
From the late 18th century until the present day, the exhibition presents more than two hundred years of bridal fashion.
Wedding dresses came in every possible colour before tradition dictated that the dress had to be white in the nineteenth century. The Church encouraged brides to wear this colour, which was considered a symbol of virginity. By wearing white dresses for their marriages, Queen Victoria of Great Britain (1840) and Empress Eugénie of France (1852) established this custom, which soon became popular. The affluent classes in cities were quick to adopt it, whereas this process was more gradual in other social classes and in rural areas. While the meaning of marriage has changed as a result of sexual liberation, the tradition of wearing a white dress is still maintained. Some brides chose black because they wanted to wear their dress after the wedding, others wore black as a sign of mourning. After the Great War, black made way for half-tones such as grey, beige and violet. These were already the recommended colours for second weddings or mature brides. As the decades passed, the rules became less strict. Nowadays anyone can marry in white or in the colour of their choice.
For quite some time, the bride's outfit was a variation on an evening dress, sharing many of the same characteristics in terms of its cut for example. These would follow the latest fashions. The colour, train and veil, however, distinguished the dress from an evening dress. In the Seventies, these codes no longer applied. The wedding dress broke free from the confines of fashion, becoming a genre in itself, the materialisation of the dream of being a princess for just one day.
Exhibited Dresses and Accessoiries