Hampshire Cultural Trust says yes to the dress with stunning new exhibition I Do!

  • 19th century shoes
  • 1920s bonnet
  • 1940s dress
  • Victorian dress for a bride in mourning

In this year of royal weddings, there were just two questions on everyone’s lips ahead of the ceremonies: who would design the dresses and what would they look like?

Excitement peaked around Harry and Meghan’s wedding earlier this year, followed by the nuptials of Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank last week. Inspired by these two royal weddings, Hampshire Cultural Trust has searched the extensive collections it cares for to create I Do!, a stunning and unique exhibition showcasing wedding gowns from across the last three centuries.

The exhibition, which opens at The Gallery, Winchester Discovery Centre on Saturday 20 October, features over 20  remarkable wedding dresses representing 250 years of changing styles, fashions and tastes. There are also some fascinating stories to tell.

“We’ve selected wedding dresses from the 1770s to the present day, plus shoes, headdresses, bonnets, bridesmaid and pageboy outfits, as well as some items tying in with the royal theme, such as samples of the fabric used for Princess Marina’s wedding in 1934 to the Duke of Kent,” says Ioannis Ioannidis, Cultural Experience Manager at Hampshire Cultural Trust.

“Some of the dresses have very personal – and very touching – stories to tell. One from the 1940s is made entirely from parachute silk using a pattern saved from before the war and there is a beautiful black gown worn by a bride in mourning. I Do! takes visitors down a virtual aisle of history, from the extravagance of the 18th century to the elegance of 2018’s designs. It’s an exquisite exhibition that tells the stories behind the fashion choices made by brides-to-be as they prepared to say ‘I do.’

I Do! also explores recurrent themes and traditions that are only found at weddings and explains the stories behind these enduring practices, from the concept of the ‘fairy tale’ wedding to the notion of wearing something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.

I Do! runs until 6 January 2019. Admission is free but donations are welcome.