On Monday, the Unveiled installation team unpacked what must be considered one of the exhibition’s most glamorous gowns – a glorious number designed by Norman Hartnell for Margaret Whigham, a British society beauty who married Charles Sweeney, a movie-star handsome American, in 1933. While one of the most glamorous, it is also the most tricky to pack and display due to the sheer size of its lavish train – all 12 feet of it. While the bride’s security guards unceremoniously bundled the train into the wedding car (as seen here in this Pathe film), the V&A have treated the gown with the respect it deserves – after all it took 30 seamstresses six weeks to make! Here are some images of the installation team unpacking the gown before an entranced group of media.
All of the gowns in Unveiled have travelled on their display mannequins in specially fitted out crates. The Margaret Whigham crate, pictured below, is affectionately known as the ‘toast rack’.
The M of the ‘toast rack’ has been cleverly designed to evenly support the weight of the gown’s 12 foot train.
While Margaret Whigham became a figure of scandal, Hartnell became one of the Royal family’s favourite designers. He designed Princess Elizabeth’s wedding and coronation gowns. Such commissions confirmed his position as London’s leading couturier. Unveiled features two gowns by Hartnell.
Unveiled opens to the public this Saturday. At 1pm on Saturday, Keira Miller will present a talk on preparing the gowns for exhibition.