Guest blogger Jess Mallard headed over to the Gallery of Costume this week to check out their temporary exhibition, a collection of wedding dresses across the decades. Jess managed to get to speak to the exhibition curator Adam Hunt, and he answered some questions about how the exhibition was put together.
Walking towards the Gallery of Costume from the urban landscape of Platt Fields Park is like stepping through a time machine – the terraced houses of Fallowfield are replaced by the 16th century Georgian manor, which on entering greets you with a grand sweeping staircase. Amidst the whirl-wind of clothes ranging from 17th century pieces to Haut Couture items and even Kate Moss’ TopShop range is the temporary Something Blue exhibition of wedding dresses from the 1900’s to present.
You displayed wedding photos away from the dresses, was that to engage the viewer to match the dress to the photo? And if not, do you like that it creates this effect?
Yes. We decided without images of the brides on their day would render the dresses a bit static. Since we could display only the dresses and no accessories, hats, gloves, shoes, flowers etc, and we wanted to bring the dresses to life and have them exist in an actual place in time, the photos were essential. In fact the quality and nature of some of the photos directed our choice of dress.
We do like the fact that visitors look at the pictures as well as the dresses and make the link for the reasons given above. It makes the exhibition much more personal.
Why did you decide to have music playing in one of the rooms and how did you select which music to play?
We had intended to have music in both rooms, but because the downstairs room is more open and next door to our coffee shop, which often has music on too, we thought it best to leave it. Besides which, the romantic songs of the 20’s 30’s, 40’s & 50’s are rather more appealing than might be the case with songs of the 80’s for instance! The selection I made was based upon popularity and familiarity. I didn’t want ‘wedding songs’ as such, just romantic numbers that were instantly recognisable.
Alongside the dresses are stories of how they were chosen. How much significance do they have and did you ever consider exhibiting the dresses without them?
This was maybe the most important aspect of them all. Since a wedding (and particularly a wedding dress) is a very personal thing I wanted to reflect this in my labels. In many cases when we accession items into the collection we also collect information about the person who donated the item.
In the case of wedding dresses there is often a story that goes with them. And in many cases the story, alongside the photographs, made our choice for us. We decided that no story and no picture would mean no display. We have a large collection of wedding dresses, many of which may be considered ‘better dresses’ and we could have displayed them, but that wasn’t what we were trying to achieve.
The written accounts of how the dresses were chosen and the photo’s of the brides create a highly personal exhibition that combines romance and fashion in a delicate and touching way. Combined with the feel good golden era music humming in the background you can’t help but get that warm fuzzy feeling like at the end of a rom-com when everybody lives ‘happily ever after’.
Jessica Mallard is currently studying Fine Art and Art History at Manchester School of Art, and hopes to forge a career combining her love of art, travel and writing in the future. If you are interested in guest blogging for Fred Aldous, email us here.
Are you getting married soon? We highly recommend a visit. Why not check out our DIY Wedding blog post, where you will find lots of ways to give your wedding a creative twist.