Wedding Belles: Bridal Fashions from the Marjorie Merriweather Post Family, 1874-1958
(Editor's Note: We admit that we missed this exhibition when it began last year at the Hillwood Estate, Museum and Garden, in Washington, DC. But this kind of exhibition has no date that would limit its interest online. )
Exquisite gowns and other wedding apparel reveal how three generations of Post
family women celebrated weddings with their legendary elegance and style. From turn-of-the-century Edwardian bride to Upper East Side doyenne to Washington grande dame, Hillwood founder Marjorie Merriweather Post (1887-1973) asserted her status, taste, and sophistication in the styles she wore down the aisle.
Now, Wedding Belles brings together her four wedding gowns, along with those of her mother and daughters, to explore her exquisite bridal fashions and examine the evolution of early 20th-century wedding style through the lens of one of America’s most notable and fashionable families. (See above film) Drawn mainly from the extensive costume collection left by Post to Hillwood, the exhibition also includes her daughters’ flower girl and bridesmaid dresses, mother of the bride dresses worn by Post and her mother, a historic veil on loan to the exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution, and a show-stopping jewel-encrusted Cartier bag.
American weddings have traditionally been emblematic of social status, wealth, and personality. "For Marjorie Merriweather Post, they also reflected her progression from young bride to fully-emancipated American businesswoman, collector, philanthropist, and every bit an embodiment of the American dream. And what dream doesn’t include a great love story or two?” said Kate Markert, executive director of Hillwood. “The passion she brought to decorative art collecting and every other facet of her life was equally evident in the elegant and stylish dresses Mrs. Post chose for her weddings and those of her daughters. ”
The 2009 exhibition, An Invitation to the Ball, a display of Post’s intricately-designed fancy dress gowns created for her legendary costumed balls of the 1920’s, was the first special exhibition at Hillwood to focus on Post’s extraordinary collection of apparel. Wedding Belles will offer visitors not only a new perspective
on the lives of the gowns’ wearers, but will also offer a view of the changing silhouettes of American bridal fashions in the first half of the 20th century.
Beginning with the 1874 wedding dress of Post’s mother, Ella Merriweather Post, this look at Post family gowns and dresses worn over the next 80 years reveals the fashion trends and burgeoning wedding traditions, including the time-honored white dress, that informed theirs and the American bride of the 20th - century. “From Ella Merriweather’s practical yet elegant gray satin dress to Mrs. Post’s classic 1958 lace
afternoon dress, the bridal fashions of the Post women always followed the style of the day,” explained Howard Vincent Kurtz, assistant curator of costumes and textiles at Hillwood and curator of the exhibition.
“While changing fashions may affect the silhouette, the wedding dress and veil have remained subtly timeless since the introduction of the white wedding gown by Queen Victoria over 150 years ago.”
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