Almost 30 gowns in Here Comes the Bride will take you on trip down memory lane

Brides of long ago: this pearl tiara from the 1930s supports a very fragile cotton tulle veil.

Brides of long ago: this pearl tiara from the 1930s supports a very fragile cotton tulle veil.

Weddings are almost always a political undertaking, a negotiation between the wishes of the couple, their parents, their religious beliefs, what to spend, where to have it, who coughs up for what.

Even the dress isn’t exempt. Owner of the extraordinary wedding collection on exhibition at Windsor at the moment, Charlotte Smith of Leura, said her wedding dress was not exactly what she wanted. With a straight knee-length skirt framed by a large peplum and small train, the dress, part of the exhibition, is a lasting reminder of compromise to her mother’s wishes. 

“I wanted a mini-skirt under the peplum but my mother said no,” she said. “I still regret it.” 

‘Here comes the bride’ opened at Hawkesbury Regional Gallery last Friday, February 10. It features 27 dresses from The Darnell Collection, which comprised more than 9000 items of women’s fashion spanning several centuries, given to her by a relative.

There are also two Hawkesbury wedding gowns in the exhibition, one from the early 60s and the other the early 80s. The 60s gown is flanked by the bride’s pink silk going away outfit and a delicate nightie from her trousseau.

This exhibition should not be missed by any woman who has ever been married or wants to one day. It would be a fabulous trip for a bunch of friends who could share their stories while reading those attached to some of the gowns.

A black Quaker gown created in 1650 and altered several times over the centuries until its present incarnation in the 20s; and a spectacular American bustled gown from the 1880s.

A black Quaker gown created in 1650 and altered several times over the centuries until its present incarnation in the 20s; and a spectacular American bustled gown from the 1880s.

About a quarter of the exhibits are American, including a 1920s gown of a bride who married the President’s son. There are wedding shoes from the late 1700s, a Quaker’s bonnet from the early 1800s, and a spectacular American bustled gown from the 1880s. 

The items go right up to the present day with a black Goth gown and a designer white leather sheath with long, daisy-covered train and diamante collar and cuffs. 

A WWII era wedding dress from a Philadelphian department store.

A WWII era wedding dress from a Philadelphian department store.

A 1940s cream dress with Peter Pan collar was from a department store in Philadelphia, Charlotte said, “off the $16 rack”. She said the stores stocked them for brides who had to get married in a hurry as their man was going off to war. This one was afterwards lent to two other brides.

The exhibition runs until March 26. The gallery is closed Tuesdays, but is otherwise open 10am-4pm during the week and 10am-3pm on weekends. Entry is free. 

Exhibition owner Charlotte Smith with one of the most popular gowns - a tiny mint lace 1930s creation.

Exhibition owner Charlotte Smith with one of the most popular gowns - a tiny mint lace 1930s creation.

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