Every bride is different, and while some prefer to follow classic traditions in anything from huge white gowns to sleek, lace numbers, others push the boundaries with some very dramatic styles for their big day.
But whatever your choice, it’s fair to say bridal fashion has undergone a dramatic transformation since the 1800s – with some looks completely dying out, while others have made surprising returns.
In recent decades, changing wedding looks are perfectly demonstrated my comparing Princess Diana’s ruffled, layered dress by the Emanuels, to the simpler styles worn by the Duchess of Cambridge and the Duchess of Sussex more recently.
Now, a collection of 45 stunning dresses dating from the 1880s right through to the 1970s are being unveiled in an exhibition at Old Government House in Brisbane from July to August this year – giving fans a chance to see the changing styles up close.
The dresses, drawn from award-winning Australian costume designer Marion Boyce’s collection, will form part of The Bowerbird and The Bride exhibition, along with bridesmaids and flower girls’ outfits, headpieces, bouquets and accessories.
Boyce has built up the amazing collection for years after buying some of the historical gowns from right around the world – and it’s amazing how some of the classic styles have even begun to make a comeback in more recent years.
A major highlight includes an unusual 1880s broadcloth bridal dress in the style of European couturier Charles Worth’s own designs. Boyce was given the gown when she was 21 years old, by acclaimed Australian artist Mirka Mora. It has dramatic ruffles round the skirt, with a long veil hanging down either side, and the designer accessorised it with a large floral headpiece to finish it off.
The exhibition also features a glamorous 1930s bias cut silk gown, showing off all the elegance of the decade itself in a fairly simple style reminiscent of more recent designs, along with a 1950s sunray pleated organza wedding dress – a typical style of the post-war boom.
“I like that the exhibition shows that beautiful fashion doesn’t have be from a famous designer or belong to a lm star. The dresses really are a celebration of that family member, aunty, neighbour or person in the community who made these family treasures that have been kept and valued for generations,” Boyce said of the collection.
She spent hours on each outfit, from the accessories right down to the undergarments, to recreate the looks perfectly to match the styles of the time.
“When I design, I design a whole entire outfit, not just a single garment. So preparing the exhibition was the same thing. Finding a veil that I thought would help tell the story of a wedding dress,” she explained.
“Or thinking about the kind of flowers a certain bride might have carried up the aisle. I saw them as characters that needed to be fully realised to be brought to life.”
The Bowerbird and The Bride exhibition is on display at QUT’s Old Government House from July 12 to August 19 this year.