The significance attached to the bride's outfit, in both the wedding ceremony and in wider culture, has meant that men's wedding dress has historically not been preserved or collected to the same extent.
But the V&A has a number of culturally valuable pieces, including several recent acquisitions. In the 19th century, grooms commonly displayed their romantic intent through elegant embroidered waistcoats. The satin waistcoat worn by a Mr Eeeles for his wedding in 1848 is embellished with embroidered lilies-of-the-valley and forget-me-nots, symbols of reciprocated love and happiness.
In 1995, we acquired a suit made for King James II to wear at his wedding to Mary of Modena. This suit is particularly important as it was made during the transition between the petticoat breeches and doublet of the earlier 17th century, and the later streamlined fitted breeches, vest and long jacket. It is also reliably dated. The jacket carries the only example of a 17th-century garter star (a silver badge signalling the wearer's membership of the Order of the Garter), still attached to its original support.
The wedding took place in the winter of 1673 at Dover. The suit is made of grey wool broadcloth (suitable for the English coast in winter), lined with coral ribbed silk. Both jacket and breeches are decorated with shaped panels of gold and silver embroidery of lilies and honeysuckle. The jacket cuffs are decorated with applied gold and silver lace and the wooden buttons are covered with gold and silver, creating an overall decorative effect.
In recent decades, there has been a boom in British men's fashion, and by extension, the sartorial expectations placed on the groom. The suits worn by Christopher Breward and James Brook for their civil partnership ceremony on 18 August 2006 are stylish examples.
Christopher Breward is a leading fashion historian and the former Head of Research at the V&A. He purchased the suit at Kilgour on Saville Row, and wore it with a Jasper Conran shirt. James wore a tailored wool-blend pinstripe suit by Timothy Everest for Marks & Spencer. The suits were donated to our collection in 2009 and are important, not just for their modern tailoring, but as a reflection of the recent legal changes surrounding same-sex partnerships and marriages.