by intern blogger Samantha P
By today’s standards, wedding gown trends and fashion in general, are not necessarily reflective of culture and lifestyle. A recent visit to the Chicago History Museum’s wedding gown exhibit, “I Do” Chicago Ties the Knot, is hard evidence that historical artifacts were more relevant to the zeitgeist than the current times. The woman’s image in society was rapidly evolving in the late 19th century and early 20th century and the stories behind the garb are even more charming.
The earliest wedding gown at the Chicago History Museum dates back as early as the 1860s when gowns were making a transformation- a big transformation. By the early 1960s gowns had reached there ultimate bell-shaped width. From then, the fullness of the front of the skirt would gradually move completely to the back, creating the S-Curved bustle. The S-Curve shaped swan bill corset boasted more sex appeal than it’s predecessor. The wearer’s hips were thrust back and breasts thrust forward creating a mono-breast when tightly laced. During this time and into the 20th century, weddings were no dramatic matter. They were smaller, more intimate, and brides wore a gown they already owned that served double duty. It was most likely not white. A more minimalistic approach indeed considering brides today are willing to drop thousands of dollars on a dress.
A wedding gown from 1919 marks the year that houses the oldest dress that didn’t have corset. Going completely against the grain, women were looking to flatten their bodies. By wearing a shapeless dress and a bandeau bra, women had the ability to pull off an androgynous (what would be considered at the time) look. Women entering the workforce and the Women’s Rights Movement were key milestones in the emancipation of women’s fashion. By the 1920s, being one of the major designers, Jeanne Lanvin became increasingly inspired by ancient Greece and art deco. Not being coined until 1966, art deco became a popular trend in the roaring 20s in everything from architecture to visual arts to film. The design on this particular dress is reminiscent of the late Geometric period and was seen on many clothing designs from this era.
A 1934 Charles James gown features a long train with a bias cut (cross grain) that skims and stretches across the body. It resembles the statuesque look of the glamorous Hollywood actresses in the 1930s such as Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford, and Bette Davis and in the 1940s Ava Gardner, Rita Hayworth, Katharine Hepburn, and Judy Garland. At the time, these women were the quintessential style majesty that paved the way for glamor and beauty. The Great Depression had kicked in at this same time and, ironically enough, influenced the way of dress in conjunction with the Hollywood cinema. It caused woman to dress in a more conservative, lady-like fashion. To this day, the Hollywood look is timeless and classic and often worn on the current runway.
A popular trend for a 1970s wedding gown was children’s wear complete with the high empire waistline. More weaves were becoming common such as lace, knit, and crochet. Synthetic materials were also becoming more mainstream; this particular dress was made from synthetic satin, lace, net and lace appliqués, and pearls. The use of these materials along with factory mass production made it more affordable for brides to own a wedding dress. Men and women both dressed for comfort and one could say there was another Womens Rights Movement known as the Feminist Movement. Women saw no reason why they couldn’t look and dress the part of any other dude walking down the street.
The exhibit is rounding out it’s year long run and ends January 3rd 2011. So be sure to check it out before it leaves.