Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Wedding Fashion Through the Ages

When you're planning a wedding, there are so many places from which to draw inspiration.  That's why I love the exhibit currently showing at the Chicago History Museum -- I Do! Chicago Ties the Knot.  This exhibit reminds us that we can get ideas for today's weddings from history!

The exhibit showcases 45 dresses from the past 150 years while presenting informational tidbits about the women who wore the dresses and wedding traditions from years gone by.  To add to the ambiance, as you walk through the exhibit, standard wedding tunes fill the air varying from "At Last" to "Hava Nagila" to a Lady Gaga hit.

You may envision something akin to a bridal salon with poofy white ball gowns lining the walls.  But to my surprise, upon entering, you are welcomed to the site of pink, green, and even black wedding dresses.  When I was engaged and searching for my wedding dress, I kidded with my now-husband that my dress was green whenever he would search for hints of what the dress looked like.  I never would have guessed that green wedding dresses existed at one time! 

The exhibit explained that Queen Victoria popularized the white wedding dress in 1840 when she wore white for her wedding.  Prior to that, brides wore dresses of any color for their weddings.  Often their wedding attire consisted of the nicest dress that they already owned, or they would select a new dress with the intention of continuing to wear it in the future.  Today's modern bride can learn from these ladies by spicing up their bridal style with some color.  Add a colorful sash or shoes.  Or if you're really daring, choose a pale pink or yellow dress.  It may seem avant-garde, but, in fact, you're following in the footsteps of brides from long ago!

The exhibit also displayed the cutest little outfit for a young boy, reminding me of a wedding role we don't often see today -- page boys.  Traditionally, page boys would carry the bride's train as she walked down the aisle.  If you have (well-behaved) children to include in the wedding, take a cue from historical weddings and consider adding a page boy to your wedding party. 

Chicagoans may be proud to learn that in 1924 Marshall Field's became the first store to offer a wedding registry.  Today, Marshall Field's is a Macy's, which has a convenient and easy-to-use wedding registry, allowing brides and guests to utilize the registry completely online. 

If you've watched Steel Magnolias or Father of the Bride, you may recall that in those movies, after the wedding, the bride changed out of her gown into a more comfortable outfit for her big sendoff.  This second outfit was called the setting out ensemble.  Changing clothes for the grand exit continued to be popular into the 1960s, according to the exhibit. How can you make this tradition modern?  Instead of changing out of your gown for the sendoff, just add a pretty faux fur stole or a lace shrug.  If you like the idea of completely changing into another outfit, try something a little more casual than the suits of yesteryear.  A white sundress captures the wedding feel while still allowing comfort and movement.

I Do! Chicago Ties the Knot is on exhibit at the Chicago History Museum through January 3, 2011.  The museum is free on Mondays.  If you're in the Chicago area, definitely check it out for some wedding inspiration. 

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