Wedding dresses — more than any other fashion genre or item — are a reflection of their time.
As they prepare for arguably the most important day of their life, a bride’s choice of gown is often influenced by social pressures and conventions of the day.
And these influences will be clearly evident in a new exhibition of wedding dresses worn by local women between 1859 and 1977.
The exhibition, Walking Through Time: A Hundred Years of Wedding Dresses, by the Swan Guildford Historical Society opens this weekend.
Its catalogue says wedding dresses and their accessories “tell the rich and ever evolving stories of a culture and a society”.
“This exhibition of wedding dresses, boots, flowers, hats brings to life the past and recognises the imprint of the past on the present,” it says. “From 1700 to 1790, most brides favoured silver and white wedding dresses.
“Although for a short time, from 1770 to 1780, the most popular colours for wedding dresses were cream, pink, blue and white, but by the 1790s white wedding dresses had become the most popular.
“The popularity for white wedding dresses was established in England by the 1830s and then became and remains the international choice for most brides.
“However, the white wedding dress was a luxury colour, and intended to be worn only once and therefore not a choice all brides could make.”
“Many women, particularly working-class women had to be practical in their choice of colour, materials, the cost of materials and the trimmings for their wedding dress,” the catalogue read.
“They had to make their choices based on the knowledge that the dress would be worn many times and for a long time after the wedding.
“Even when white or cream were chosen many brides understood their wedding dress would most likely be worn again for important occasions and over time would need to be let out to fit, and that there would be a need that the dress be altered to reflect the changes in fashion.”
The oldest dress in the exhibition was from 1859 and belonged to Miss Hutton.
She modified and reused the dress after the wedding.
The exhibition is at the corner of Meadow and Swan streets in Guildford and runs from 10am to 2pm, Tuesday to Saturday.