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300 Years of Bridal Fashions in One Beautiful Book

MEDIA RELEASE for use from 1st August, 2011

300 Years of Bridal Fashions in One Beautiful Book

A spectacular book that looks at the history and traditions of the wedding dress is being published by Te Papa Press this month.

The Wedding Dress: 300 Years of Bridal Fashions by Edwina Ehrman accompanies an exhibition that opens in Australia this August and at Te Papa in December. Both the book and the exhibition draw on the superb collection of wedding garments held by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Heavily illustrated with paintings, photographs and newspaper illustrations of the original occasions, this book explores the history of the European wedding dress, and the traditions that have developed around it, from around 1700 to the present day, including photos from the most recent royal wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton. Importantly The Wedding Dress draws attention to the effect of social, cultural and technological change on wedding fashions and the image of the bride, and the commercialisation of the wedding and subsequent development of the wedding industry.

Until the twentieth century wedding outfits, for both bride and groom, were expected to be worn again as ‘Sunday best’ or for special occasions and many were adapted to help prolong their usefulness for this purpose. The white wedding dress first became fashionable in the early nineteenth century, and this book considers the ways that designers have subsequently challenged and refreshed traditional approaches to bridal wear. Designers who feature both in the book and the forthcoming exhibition at Te Papa include Charles Frederick Worth, Norman Hartnell, Charles James, Zandra Rhodes, Vivienne Westwood, Vera Wang, Christian Lacroix, Lanvin, Jean Paul Gaultier, Stephen Jones and Philip Treacy.

The author says that genealogical research has been an important tool for providing context for the collection. “The majority of the collection was gifted by individuals wanting a good home for treasured family heirlooms. By using the census and other records, we’ve found information about the occupations, circumstances and faiths of many of the wearers,” says Edwina. “These details have helped us personalise the garments and bring their stories to life.”

The V&A acquired its first item for this collection in 1900 when it purchased a coat and breeches. The first wedding dress entered the collection two years later – its bodice is inscribed with the words, “Jean Smith married 20th April 1789”.

The Wedding Dress by Edwina Ehrman is available to purchase from bookshops nationwide or online at

See Te Papa’s website for more information about the accompanying exhibition. Entry charges apply.


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