An exhibition of wedding dress design through the decades. Guided tours with the collector and dressmaker, Kevin Thornhill will take place throughout the exhibition period.
The exhibition juxtaposes handmade, homemade, borrowed, and rejuvenated gowns from past decades with the work of fashion designers, Norman Hartnell, Elizabeth Emanuel and Bruce Oldfield. Their designs are reflected in several gowns, some being copies of the most well-known royal wedding gowns and tiaras, including Diana, Princess of Wales; Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex.
Other gowns have been donated or loaned by high profile figures or bridal salons. These include two gowns worn by the daughters of the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland (on loan by Her Grace’s kind permission); local celebrity and Dragon’s Den star, Sara Davies’ wedding dress; a gown donated by Kleinfeld, New York – known for the TV programme Say Yes to the Dress; and a 1923 winter velvet wedding gown, handmade by Coco Chanel for a family friend.
For enthusiasts of Downton Abbey, there is a copy of the Crawleys’ Downton Tiara displayed with a wedding gown worn in Northumberland in 1898.
A Century of Wedding Gowns is a free exhibition. A small part of the exhibition that features some of the aforementioned dresses has a recommended donation of £5 per person.
Collector and curator, Sunderland-based Kevin Thornhill, studied Art and Design at Manchester University with the intention of working in theatre wardrobe. After serving his time with London theatres and the Emanuels, where he was a member of the team making Diana, Princess of Wales’ wedding gown, he returned to the North East to run his own wedding business. Now retired, he showcases his wedding gown collection to raise funds for charities. We’re pleased that our spacious Nave can now showcase it.
Photo by Joseph Priestley, from A Century of Wedding Gowns at Ripon Cathedral.