Innovation and Individuality for a 1960s Bride

The installation team for Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 have now moved onto the mezzanine level of the gallery space, and one of the first objects to be installed is one that demonstrates how individuality became a key feature of outfits worn by modern brides from the 1960s onwards.

Annotated image courtesy of Wendy Ramshaw. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Pictured above are Jewellery Designers Wendy Ramshaw and David Watkins, who married on 12 August 1962 in Sunderland, Co. Durham. The bride herself designed the dress of ribbed silk-effect fabric with satin trimmings, which was made by a local dressmaker. She also designed the dresses worn by her bridesmaids.

The entire ensemble was acquired by the museum in 2010, especially for display in Wedding Dresses 1775-2014, and while the dress arrived in reasonable condition, the headdress turned up disassembled and looking a little sorry for itself! The elements of the headdress; which is comprised of a net veil with faux pearl beads, cream satin ribbons and 3 artificial flowers, were all crushed from storage, and in definite need of attention from Assistant Conservator Rachael Lee.

As all the separate materials needed treatment and reassembling, Rachael looked closely at images from the wedding day and at Wendy’s original design sketches for reference, and we were especially lucky to have detailed notes from the bride herself, so that we could accurately recreate this fun and fashionable 1960s style. The following images show Rachael’s incredible reconstruction in action!

Sketch by Wendy Ramshaw alongside components of the headdress before treatment. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

During treatment: The leaves and stems were carefully straightened and detached and broken leafstalks were stuck down with a conservation grade adhesive and enclosed with Japanese kozo paper. Museum number T.49:2-2010. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

After treatment: 2 large artificial white roses and 1 pink camellia were reshaped with humidification using a small preservation steam pencil. Museum number T.49:2-2010. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The next step was to create a suitable hairstyle that subtly resembled Wendy’s look, whilst also creating a safe and soft support to secure the headdress to.

Making a wig from milliner’s crinoline. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Attachment of satin ribbons and white roses. © Victoria and Albert museum, London

The completed dress and headdress were then mounted onto a mannequin especially made by Proportion London.  During a visit to the Proportion factory, the mannequin was viewed in an unfinished state, to check the dimensions. Once signed off, the mannequin was finished and spray painted, ready to display Wendy’s dress to perfection.

From factory to finished product. © Victoria and Albert museum, London

The gallery space is really beginning to fill up now, and we can’t wait to open the doors to the public!

Wendy’s dress is placed in the gallery, with preparations continuing around her. © Victoria and Albert museum, London

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