This chronological display of bridal fashion explores the changing social attitudes to both the wedding ceremony and marriage over the past 240 years.
This diverse display includes dresses worn by brides of many different faiths, ages and levels of wealth, spanning a period of more than 200 years. There are some of the earliest examples of wedding fashion, such as an 18th century silk satin court dress and a polonaise style brocade gown with straw bergère hat from 1780.
In the 19th century the preference for wearing white emerged, demonstrated here by a muslin dress decorated with flowers, leaves and berries and a pearl embellished design by Charles Frederick Worth.
Dresses from the 1920s and 30s reveal how wedding fashion became more glamorous, with slim hipped, bias cut and richly textured gowns falling into favour. In contrast, the outbreak of the Second World War meant brides had to work around clothes rationing, making use of non-restricted fabrics such as net curtaining and parachute silk, or getting married in a smart dress or service uniform.
Also on display, contemporary designs from the likes of Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano, Christian Lacroix, Lanvin, Vera Wang, Hardy Amies and Belleville Sasson, as well as pieces fresh from the Spring/Summer 2014 lines of Jenny Packham and Temperley Bridal.
Alongside the dresses are items of bridal jewellery, shoes, garters, veils, wreaths and hats, as well as outfits worn by bridegrooms and attendants. Meanwhile personal photographs and other ephemera help shed light on the stories of the dress wearers, from their occupations and financial circumstances, to the reasons behind their fashion choices.