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Here Come the Brides!

See a century-long parade of beautiful gowns, in Darien

Nothing says more about the nature of a woman’s wedding day than what she wore. Fabric, style and accessories evolve with current fashions and with brides’ specific tastes, as well as the season and timing of the celebration.  And famous brides can launch trends for the rest of us to follow: consider the impact of the wedding gowns of such iconic celebrities as Jacqueline Bouvier (Kennedy), Princess Diana or the current Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton.

This month—June is the most popular wedding month—and throughout the summer, the Darien Historical Society has searched its vast and splendid collection of vintage clothing, to present a remarkable exhibit of the gowns that brides of the past have worn for their walk down the aisle. Each of the show’s twenty-one costumes is artfully displayed and accessorized, giving the viewer a picture of elegant brides from the mid-nineteenth century through the 1950s. It’s a breathtaking parade of lace, beads, satin and silk.

All of the bridal costumes have been donated to the Society by Darien residents. The dresses and accoutrements run the gamut from the simple, ecru silk dress of 1855 Quaker bride, Margaret Williams, to an over-the-top confection—jeweled with pearls and bugle beads, and accented with a shimmering satin bustle and court train—worn by a local bride with the unironic name of Wealthy Albro, who married Richard Lewis in 1883.  Wealthy, who appears to have had a conspicuous devotion to the trends of the times, even had two ribs removed to flaunt a tiny waist within her amazing costume, proving that it’s not just today’s fashionistas who alter themselves cosmetically to make an impact.

In between these two extremes is an astute look at the evolution of bridal fashions, smartly executed by the Society’s curator, Babs White. Babs, who honed her encyclopedic knowledge of costume with an art history degree in her college days and a pre-Darien career as a fashion illustrator at Women’s Wear Daily, the industry bible, is a treasure trove of facts about the textiles, handwork, and all of the details that make wedding dresses memorable. The illustrated exhibit catalogue is full of wonderful information to provide the viewer with a succinct and enlightening education in bridal fashions.  

Whether you’re a bride-to-be, her mother, or just a fan of weddings and fashion, the exhibit will make you smile, and perhaps give you a taste for a glass of champagne.

Here Come The Brides!
at the Darien Historical Society, 45 Old Kings Highway North, through August 31. Exhibit open Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

Here Come the Brides at the Darien Historial Society

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