Unveiled: Wedding Dress of the Week

This week’s ‘wedding dress of the week’ is an homage to classicism. Designed by Ian & Marcel this dress and coat is one of the most subtle yet rewarding ensembles included in Unveiled: 200 Years of Wedding Fashion from the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

Pleated silk wedding dress and coat, net veil decorated with silicone rubber, by Ian and Marcel, London, 1989. Bequeathed by Ian and Marcel. ©Victoria and Albert Museum / V&A Images

Pleated silk wedding dress and coat, net veil decorated with silicone rubber, by Ian and Marcel, London, 1989. Bequeathed by Ian and Marcel. ©Victoria and Albert Museum / V&A Images

Ian & Marcel was founded in 1979 by two Canadians – Ian Cooper and Marcel Aucoin. Both trained in Canada, and moved to London in the late 1970s, where Cooper completed a masters degree in fashion at the St Martins School of Art. In the UK, the duo quickly established a reputation for their exquisitely hand-painted garments, and pleated silks. The latter were inspired by the work of Mariano Fortuny (1871 – 1949). Born in Spain and based in Venice, Fortuny was renowned for his ‘Delphos’ dress, a full-length, body clinging gown made of finely pleated silk which was weighted at the hem and sleeves with Venetian glass beads. The beads not only added an ornamental touch, but also assisted with the drape of the gown.

As the name Delphos suggests, Fortuny was inspired by the Classical world as alluded to in this photograph from The Metropolitan.

Evening dress by House of Fortuny, 1930s. Gift of Estate of Agnes Miles Carpenter, 1958. Collection of the Costume Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. C.I.58.61.3a, b.

Evening dress by House of Fortuny, 1930s. Gift of Estate of Agnes Miles Carpenter, 1958. Collection of the Costume Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. C.I.58.61.3a, b.

Influenced by neo-classicism and the 19th century dress reform movement, Fortuny’s Delphos gown was initially popular in artistic circles. Early adopters included dancer Isadora Duncan and actress Lillian Gish. Over-time the Delphos became acceptable as ‘at-home’ wear and later as evening wear.

Cooper and Aucoin saw an exhibition of Fortuny’s work in 1980 at the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery. Obviously entranced, they skilfully updated the Fortuny-look for the 1980s silhouette as this wedding dress elegantly demonstrates.

The execution of the veil, which features roses ‘drawn’ in silicone rubber,  also brings Ian & Marcel’s historically inspired wedding gown into the contemporary. The duo developed a silicone rubber and silk technique to create stitch-free seams and hems, and decorative elements.

Pleated silk and silk net with rubber decoration by Ian and Marcel. ©Victoria and Albert Museum / V&A Images

Pleated silk and silk net with silicone rubber decoration by Ian and Marcel. ©Victoria and Albert Museum / V&A Images

Another example of this technique, applied to an evening gown, can be viewed on the V&A’s website. 

Ian & Marcel bequeathed a significant collection of their work to the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1992. Both designers sadly succumbed to AIDS related illnesses in the early 1990s. Reflecting on their approach, Lady Holly Rumbold, who co-wrote Ian and Marcel : Hand Painted and Pleated Silks with Elizabeth Vernon in 1993, wistfully observed:

‘Ian & Marcel reminded us of medieval knights, whose quest was for beauty’s perfection. They consecrated their lives to their art and the realisation of their ideals, with the same single-mindedness and fervour of Parsifal in pursuit of the Holy Grail’.

7 Responses

  1. kimmy112

    Looks really elegant to wear!
    http://www.astylishprom.com

    Reply
  2. kimmy112

    Seems good to touch!

    Reply
  3. Ana ✔

    I love these dresses! I really like the dress that you use as the promo pic? Designer and year? It’s definitely not your traditional gown. :-)

    Reply
  4. Kae Lewis

    I think it would be better if Te Papa concentrated on a collection of NZ traditional wedding dresses through each era. These exist but are fast deteriorating because the general public lacks the knowledge snd facilities to preserve and conserve these fragile materials. Early NZ wedding dresses were mostly hand sewn, with hand-made beading lace etc making them even more fragile than London fashions. I have my grandmothers exquisite and fast deteriorating hand sewn wedding dress from the 1920s (Tauranga) and I am completely at a loss to know how to conserve it while TePapa concentrates on London fashions.

    Reply
    • Claire Regnault

      Dear Kae

      Thank you for your comment.

      ‘Wedding Dress of the Week’ is a series of blog posts designed to augment our current exhibition Unveiled: 200 Years of Wedding Fashion from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The posts alternate between highlighting a dress from the exhibition and a dress from Te Papa’s collection, which features gowns dating from the late 1700s to the present. For example the post on 13 January highlights recent acquisition – a post-World War II wedding dress made from parachute silk.

      While Te Papa is dedicated to showcasing New Zealand and the Pacific, we are also committed to bringing the best of the rest of the world to New Zealand – hence our international exhibition programme of which Unveiled is a part.

      Embracing international history, does not mean that we are neglecting our own. We are currently upgrading our wedding dress records for Collections Online so that the collection is accessible publicly. This project includes further research into provenance, conservation, and preparing gowns for detailed photography. A number of these gowns will feature in ‘Wedding Dress of the Week’ over the next three months. In April last year, we also launched the New Zealand Wedding Photography Gallery – an online project aimed at collecting images in order to provide a rich record of changes in New Zealand wedding style – http://sites.tepapa.govt.nz/weddingphotos/

      Aware, that many people like yourself are keen to learn about caring for their family heirlooms, our Textile Conservation Team will be running a Conservation Clinic at Te Papa on Tuesday 21 February 2012, 1pm–2pm as part of the Unveiled event programme. The team are also preparing some practical conversation guidelines on the care of wedding dresses which will be available on the Te Papa website by mid-February. Hopefully, these guidelines will be of some assistance to you. You are also welcome to ring the Textile Conservation Team for advice. Most local museums are also happy to provide advice regarding care and storage.

      Kind regards
      Claire Regnault

    • Kae Lewis

      Is it possible for the Conservation Clinic to be videotaped and placed on utube or somewhere so that those of us who dont live in Wellington can also benefit from your expertise? Thanks, Kae

    • Claire Regnault

      Hi Kae

      A great idea! The team is looking into it. This link might also be useful to anyone looking for conservation advice http://nzccm.org.nz/directory-find-a-conservator.

      All the best
      Claire

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