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Love Desire & Riches – The Fashion of Weddings at Rippon Lea

Wedding Show Entry

Entry to the wedding show at Rippon Lea

Rippon Lea, managed and owned by the National Trust of Australia (Victoria), is one of Melbourne’s most historical and much loved ‘boom’ mansions.

It is currently hosting an exhibition of historic wedding dresses. Love, Desire and Riches is all about the ‘Fashion for Weddings’ in popular culture.

The development of the fashionable wedding dress and its treatment by key fashion designers of the past century such as English fashion giants Charles Frederick Worth, Norman Hartnell and Vivienne Westwood, America’s legendary Charles James and Vera Wang and French fashion designer Christian Lacroix and the French based John Galliano is significant to the wedding dress and its design evolution.

The show at Rippon Lea spans some 200 years of fashion and collectively the dresses provide a stunning display, reflecting the social status of those newly wed, as well as the superb skills of the workers who fashioned the dresses they wore on their special day.

At Rippon Lea the display includes internationally manufactured haute couture gowns and dresses that have adorned celebrities and princesses on their most special of days.

They were manufactured to the designs of those at the top of their trade.

Wedding Dress

Pearl encrusted panels on a superb wedding dress by Madame Maugas at Paris, c1889

My favourite was the wedding dress worn by Ethel Florence Quirk (nee Petty) on her wedding day. Pearls have been encrusted all over the panel that covered the façade of the bodice and highlighted the centre of the skirt, the dress being fashioned by Madame Maugas at Paris in 1889.

I didn’t know when I saw it but it turned out that this was the dress that inspired the show as I discovered when later reading the catalogue. As the curator explained the Parisian gown was made and worn at a small church in East St Kilda by a bride of some standing in the community.

There are apparently two dresses by Madame Maugas in the Trust’s costume collection. Madame was renowned as the competition for English Fashion designer Charles Frederick Worth (1825-1895) who both vied for the privilege of creating wonderful clothes for European royalty in their day.

The dresses are on display next to celebrity wedding gowns designed by Australia’s Toni Maticevski for Jennifer Hawkins and by Alex Perry for Kyly Clarke.

CuratorThey are also next to film and television dresses worn by Kylie Minogue in Neighbours when ‘Charlene married Scott (Jason Donovan), as well as when she was a guest star on the TV favourite, Kath and Kim.

The show has been arranged in context by curator Elizabeth Anya-Petrivna to illustrate the ‘changing face of wedding design through the ages’.

The curator particularly noted some have signs of ageing…a tear along the hem or the train, a solitary lost sequin or beadwork making tulle particularly strain under their weight.

ripponlea_lovedesire&riches17 copyThe show is not about ‘perfection’ but about showing off the human story attached to their survival so that we may all glean what we will from viewing them.

The dining room fashioned a la ‘Miss Havisham’ provides the fun part. It comes complete with ‘cobwebs’, highlighting the aborted wedding of a significant character in Charles Dicken’s novel Great Expectations from 1861.

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Wedding – Rituals of Tradition and Performance Art

Bride & GroomSpring has nearly sprung and all over Australia people will now start looking forward to the light, the sun and the warmth of summer, as well as the joys and celebrations that come with the Xmas holiday season.

As well there will be many ‘spring’ brides looking forward to the happiest day of their lives.

They have spent months enacting the pre-performance rituals for their wedding; including buying the clothes to be worn, the invitations to send and the plans for the day.

To start the season of spring my family is certainly looking forward to such a happy event; the ceremony surrounding the marriage of the eldest of my three sons to the lovely girl of his dreams. Being together as one is really all about give and take.

Lalique's Lovers

As twentieth century poet, prophet and philosopher Khalil Gibran so wisely observed …

… And stand together yet not too near together; For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow*

Soul mates and partners for life is what all brides and grooms and same sex couples coming together are both looking forward to being following their wedding.

Although first of all they have to run the gauntlet of pre-wedding nerves and all the emotional feelings of expectation and exultation that lead up to the day of the ceremony.

Why do we do it?

Why do we mark the occasion by dressing up, exchanging vows, feasting together and dancing into the night?

The rituals of tradition surrounding the wedding ceremony are very important in all cultures. They have been an integral part of human societies evolution for thousands of years.

Pair Gold Rings 2

It is all about symbolically performing ‘rites of passage’.

It is also about making a declaration before your personal society of friends, family, close colleagues and interested parties, one that is meant to be meaningful and lasting.

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