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…

ladue3At 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.