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“Glorious Gowns” on Display

ladue2If you haven’t had a chance to stop by Campbell House in the past couple of months, you’re in for a treat on your next visit. Now through the end of December 2013, we’re holding a special exhibition of ‘Glorious Gowns’ from the Campbell House collection.  A particularly exciting aspect of this display can be found in our third floor exhibition rooms, where we’re getting the chance to show off some pieces in our collection that normally don’t get to see the light of day—a dozen magnificent wedding dresses. (Look for a future blog post here about Virginia Campbell’s gowns also currently on display.)

Our friends over at the Ladue News stopped by last week to snap some photos and do a feature on these incredible works of art, as well as get the story out about Campbell House’s fashionable past and its once-extensive costume collection.  Here’s a taste of what they had to say…

ladue3“At the Campbell House Museum, a collection of historic wedding gowns showcasing the meticulous ornamentation and painstaking detail found in attire from decades past currently is on exhibit.

On display are 11 historical gowns ranging approximately from 1871 to 1960. A vintage–inspired modern dress also is on display, completing the transitional journey of bridal fashion.

The awe-evoking craftsmanship is showcased in details such as heavy smocking, beading and petite pleating. A variety of older silhouettes are on display, ranging from high to scoop necklines, hourglass-shaping puffed shoulders to hip-enhancing bustles. A selection of dresses even have accessories; items like broaches, shoes, veils and occasionally photographs complement the exhibit.

ladue7Procrastinators interested in seeing the collection should know that Hahn estimates the next display will be in “at least a dozen years, if not longer—especially with Mrs. Campbell’s gowns. If not a whole generation, then the better part of one.” The rationale behind the wait? “Part of it is to preserve them, and also it is a monumental effort to undertake the installation.”

At the start of 2014, the lavish gowns will begin making their way back into storage. When not on display, the wedding dresses are kept in lined, specialty boxes, partially stuffed with acid-free tissue paper to avoid any sharp creases or folds. “The care is prolonging its eventual demise,” Hahn says. “Fabric can last a long time, but no fabric will last forever.” When the dresses are—delicately—touched, they are done so while wearing white cotton gloves to keep any dirt or oil on hands off the dresses. Hahn notes a simple touch might not do anything now, but could leave oil-caused discoloration visible within the next decade.

Preserving the gowns, even if they cannot last forever, is preserving a small part of the city. “I think one of the very interesting things about these gowns is that they are all connected to St. Louis,” Hahn says of the donated pieces. “They speak a lot to the wedding traditions in our own community. In a larger sense, I think it informs people how these wedding traditions have changed and evolved over time.”

Click here for the complete article with more images

Thank you to the Ladue News for helping us tell the story of these unique fashions.


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