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Wedding dresses interlaced with generational stories in OSU exhibit

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Three of the dresses on display at "And the Bride Wore..." on display through May 9 in Campbell Hall 175. Credit: Eileen McClory / Design Editor

Three of the dresses on display at “And the Bride Wore…” on display through May 9 in Campbell Hall 175.
Credit: Eileen McClory / Design Editor

When creating a historic costume exhibit, underwear and wedding dresses draw the most people, said Gayle Strege, curator for the Ohio State Historic Costume and Textiles Collection.

“I think with the wedding dress, it’s a big occasion dress,” Strege said. “I think some brides are interested in just getting different ideas.”

The latest collection, “And the Bride Wore…,” on display in Campbell Hall 175, showcases a variety of wedding dresses curated by OSU. The dresses, which include a late 1800s dress bought in New York and shipped to Cincinnati, as well as a dress worn by two different generations of women, Strege said, are on display through May 9. An earlier exhibition of wedding dresses opened in September and closed at the end of last semester. 

The exhibition shows wedding dresses arranged around themes: something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, war brides and generations.

Only part of the OSU collection is currently on display, Strege said. She added that a lot of people don’t know about the collection, which has been around since the 1920s.

“Unfortunately, we tend to be called a hidden gem because a lot of people don’t know we’re here. I think the same is true for some of the special collections at the library. It can take some hunting on a campus this large to find everything that’s been stashed in the corners,” Strege said.

The Historic and Textiles Collection’s mission, according to its website, is to collect and preserve textile artifacts for scholarly use by students and faculty. Past exhibits displayed Girl Scout uniforms and little black dresses throughout the years.

“I was one of those people who didn’t know what it was,” said Hayley Miller, a third-year in fashion and retail studies and a monitor for the exhibit.

The wedding dresses exhibit can tell people now what the peak of fashion was when the bride got married, Strege said. Weddings are special occasions, so the bride would have wanted to look presentable and fashionable, she said.

For example, three dresses that show the progression from grandmother to granddaughter show different types of fashion. The grandmother, who was married in 1917, wore a shorter gown, whereas her daughter, who married in the 1940s, wore a sleeveless floor-length gown. The granddaughter, who Strege said was an OSU professor, wore a high-collared, long-sleeved dress, as was fashionable in the 1970s.

Strege said the reason for the differences has to do with how women interpreted fashion. The 1917 dress is a more of an everyday kind of fashion, she said, and might have followed fashion hemlines more closely. While the bride might still have a train in 1920s, it wasn’t until 1930s that women began to go back to long hemlines, Strege said.

But the dresses are also at the exhibit to tell stories. That same group of dresses tells the story of three generations of women and their lives.

“What we were looking for is dresses that also had stories. It’s not about particular time periods,” Strege said. “We were really looking through the files to see what kind of had an interesting story with it.”

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