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Inspiring Dresses: Beautiful Wedding Dress Designs from the Past

Inspiration for your wedding dress can come from anywhere, but we love nothing more than looking back and seeing what famous brides wore on their special day. Some, like the flappers of the 1920s, wore dresses that are subtle and subdued, while the dresses of the 80s had the big sleeves to match the big hair. 

Did you know that Queen Victoria made the white wedding dress the must-wear item for brides when she wore a white gown incorporating her favorite lace in 1840?  Before Victoria got married in white, a bride walked down the aisle in any color and black wedding dresses were especially popular in Scandinavia.

Wedding dresses from the Victorian era are part of a new exhibition thanks to a collaboration between the University of North Texas fashion collection and the Greater Denton Arts Council. The exhibit also includes one of the colorful dresses - a 1878 dress of deep plum silk satin featuring a boned bodice.


Another favorite exhibit is a 1982 wedding dress inspired by one of the most famous dresses in the world: Princess Diana’s 1981 wedding dress. The original, which was designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel, was made with woven silk taffeta, antique hand-made Carrickmacross lace, sequins, and 10,000 pearls.  Copies of the dress were available within hours of the wedding, and the designers still get requests for replicas!

The American Brides exhibition includes more than 40 wedding gowns, some from the University’s fashion collection and others on loan from private collections. Curator Myra Walker said the 40 gowns illustrate how bridal fashion has evolved, and she explained that compiling the right mixture of styles took more than 10 years to complete. 

Walker finds it tough to pick her favorite dress. “They are all my favorites,” she said, “but it’s the one from the 1940s that has a lot of tulle and satin ribbons and things like that. It looks historical but you could design a dress like that right now and wear it and it would be in style.”


More modern dresses are also on show, like a gown which features a bodice of leather by Texan designer Michael Faircloth and a dress designed by Nardos Iman with a skirt of ostrich feathers.

Steven Porterfield, who owns the Cat’s Meow vintage store in Midland, loaned some of the wedding dresses from his collection to the exhibition, and other Texan designers including Winn Morton and Victor Costa have work on show.

Check out how bridal fashion has changed in ‘ American Brides: Inspiration and Ingenuity’ which runs through October 24 at the Greater Denton Arts Council’s Patterson-Appleton Center for the Visual Arts.



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