As the nights draw in, so too do the clothes we wear, as we swap loose sun dresses for wraps and jumpers. This change in style transfers inevitably into bridal wear – although many brides do attempt to overcome the cold, shivering slightly in a sleeveless dress or wrapped in a stole or cape.
The wedding anniversaries of eleven of the brides represented in the exhibition, and therefore a sixth of all those included, fall between now and the New Year. As the first of these represented weddings took place in 1780 and the most recent in 1998, this implies that autumn and winter weddings have remained relatively common through the 240 years our exhibition covers. These brides combatted the varied weather of their morning weddings through clever choices in dress design and material.
When, for instance, Maud Cecil married Greville Steel in November 1927, metallic lames, shell-pink and pale-gold were popular choices for brides and eveningwear alike. Maud, the daughter of the MP Sir Evelyn Cecil and a recent graduate of London’s Slade School of Fine Art, chose just such a light, golden shade for her wedding dress. Taking the trend further, Maud’s bridesmaids walked in pairs, each pair wearing dresses of gradating gold concluding in the tone of the bride’s own dress.
Another trend of the time was the selection of velvet for winter wedding dresses. This too Maud, for whom fashion was a lifelong passion, successfully incorporated in the design. As well as shimmering attractively under candlelight, the weight of good silk velvet provides its wearer with warmth. Even in the sepia photographs which accompanied the dress when it was donated to our collection, the dress appears to glow.
In these photos, you can also spot the rows of people who, having read for weeks about the preparations for the wedding in newspapers and society magazines, came and waited outside the church for a glimpse of the bride. While the crowd is mainly made up of women in coats and furs, the bride still greatly thanked them for waiting for her in the cold, and handed out souvenir napkins to mark the occasion.