A century and a half of wedding dresses in styles once all the rage


A WEDDING “costume” from 1850 forms the centrepiece of an exhibition of wedding memorabilia currently being held at the White­ness Hall.

The costume consisting of a victorian style dress and short coat has been handmade from a fawn coloured woollen fabric together with burgundy embroidered velvet panels and is beautifully preserved. The outfit has been lent to the exhibition by councillor Florence Grains whose own wedding dress from the 1960s is also on display.

Florence said: “The wedding outfit which is really a costume rather than a dress, belonged to an elderly lady in Weisdale, who gave it to her daughter who then gave it to my mother, who in turn gave it to me. I have tried the outfit on once or twice.”

The exhibition also contains a brown velvet wedding jacket from 1878 and a gold coloured satin wedding cape worn by Mary Hunter and probably dating from the around the same time.

With regard to her own wedding dress Florence (nee Abernethy) designed the gown herself and then took the design to a company in Aberdeen to have the dress made up.

Florence said: “I took the design to Aberdeen in August of one year but my wedding was not until August the following year, so the company had a whole year to make the dress. However when it was ready after all that time I was worried it might not fit, but it fitted fine!”

The exhibtion has been thought­fully laid out and covers all aspects of a wedding.

Dresses are shown to good effect around the hall with the gowns and bridesmaids’ dresses being shown from most decades in the 20th century. It is interesting to see how designs and fabrics have changed through the years. In the 1920s and 30s lace was very popular, as shown by Maud Sinclair’s wedding dress from 1932, moving onto satin fabrics in the 1940s. Barbara Smith’s dress from 1947 shows a classic design in satin with a tasteful embroidered sequin pattern on the bodice.

As the century progressed more synthetic fabrics became available. This meant that wedding dresses were able to be produced by machine and elaborate dresses also became more affordable.

Most brides in Shetland wore veils despite the wind and poor weather conditions and in some of the masses of photographs on display some brides are obviously trying hard to hold on to their head gear.

The majority of the photographs are displayed in albums laid out on tables at the back of the hall. Many of the visitors have enjoyed browsing the albums and seeing who they can spot and recognise among the bridal couples and their guests too. There are one or two very old sepia tinted photographs moving through to hand coloured pictures and then more reportage and art styles taken quite recently.

Fashions have also come and gone with bridal bouquets too. Fresh flowers are very traditional but silk flowers have been popular since the 1970s and this has meant that bouquets can be kept and preserved.

The style of bouquets has also changed. Tightly made teardrop designs were amongst the most popular for many years but today much freer hand tied bunches of flowers are a popular choice.

The main organisers of the wed­ding exhibition have been Gillian Anderson and Vivienne Tulloch who have worked very closely over the last two to three months to bring the exhibition together.

Gillian said: “The exhibition is going really well. We had well over 100 people to visit last weekend and we are hoping to have many more this weekend. Vivienne and I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has lent items and to those who have helped with the setting up too.”

The exhibition is open on Satur­day and Sunday from 2pm-5pm each day. Entry to the exhibition costs £4 for adults and £2 for children under 12, to include tea and homebakes.


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