New wedding dress exhibition opens at Astley Hall

Unforgettable: Jennie Cockrell with the 1853 silk dress at Astley Hall
Unforgettable: Jennie Cockrell with the 1853 silk dress at Astley Hall

For centuries, brides up and down the land have been in search of a perfect dress for their big day.

Long, short, meringue or A-line - the all important dress has remained a constant tradition that has brought even the hardest of mother-in-laws to tears.

And now, a new exhibition at Chorley’s Astley Hall is set to celebrate 150 years of the biggest and best wedding gowns.

Hot on the heels of the hotly-anticipated Royal Wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton, blushing brides of all generations will be able to take a step back in time to see just how the fashions have changed.

‘Hitched: Wedding Clothes and Customs’ has gone on display at the Chorley landmark and will run every Saturday and Sunday between 12 noon and 5pm.

It features wedding outfits that reveal the changing face of marriage over the last 150 years.

All of the items have been provided by the National Museum Liverpool’s own collection and boats everything from an elegant 19th century, white silk taffeta wedding dress to the sharp suits of a 21st Century civil partnership.

Alongside the outfits and accessories there are photographs and information revealing the many and varied traditions of weddings from food, transport, venue and even the stag and hen parties.

Visitors to the exhibition can also find out about little known superstitions and beliefs, such as why the wedding ring is always worn on the third finger of the left hand, or why the meal following the ceremony is known as the wedding breakfast, no matter what time of the day it is eaten.

Jamie Carson, Chorley Council’s Director of People and Places thinks people will really enjoy viewing the wide range of outfits.

He said: “On the back of the Royal Wedding and with the 2011 wedding season in full swing, we’re delighted to have such a varied collection of wedding history right here in Chorley.

“The ‘Hitched’ exhibition has something for everyone and it’s interesting to see how some of customs have changed over the years while others have remained the same.”

The exhibition features around 20 dresses and accessories.

The highlights include a glass beaded silk crepe-de-chine wedding dress and train from the 1920s, a silk brocade wedding dress with full skirt from Liverpool’s famous Henderson’s department store dating back to the 1960’s and a crystal-beaded wedding dress worn by a bride from Liverpool’s Traveller community in 2010.