From a silk embroidered Edwardian gown to a modern-day Goth-inspired creation, every wedding dress in a collection to be shown in Meltham during the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations tells its own story. Hilarie Stelfox went along for a sneak preview
THE DRESSES themselves are no more than silk and satin, lace and net, but each one represents much more – the hopes and dreams of the brides on their wedding day.
So far more than 30 bridal gowns from 1910 to the 2000s have been promised for an exhibition at Meltham Parish Church this summer. The event, Wedding Dresses Through the Decades, will take place over the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee weekend, June 1 to 4, at St Batholomew’s.
The dresses all tell their own story, from the spectacularly beautiful embroidered Edwardian gown belonging to the grandmother of parishioner Val White to the dramatic Goth-style worn by Kay Shields when she got married in 2005.
For Kay, who is currently battling terminal breast cancer, lending her gown to the church has been a bitter-sweet experience.
“I cried when I got the dress out,” said 40-year-old Kay whose husband, Carl, tragically died from a heart attack back in December 2007 when their son Joe was just nine-days old.
The story behind her gown is particularly poignant but she has happy memories of the day she first wore it.
“It was a second time round for both of us and because we both liked rock music we wanted a style that suited us,” she said.
“Twelve months after the wedding we had a church blessing, here at St Bart’s.”
Kay’s dress, made by specialist costumier Dark Angel in the Calder Valley, cost around £500.
It’s likely that the dress on loan from Val White, which belonged to her paternal grandmother, Alethea Robinson, was extremely costly.
Alethea (nee Hawkins) was marrying into the family that owned a Leeds department store.
Her gown, in high-necked Edwardian-style has a silk under-dress and fine net overlay with exquisite hand embroidery.
“It was probably very expensive as the family had a lot of money,” said Val.
But not all brides had unlimited budgets.
Sheila Sinclair (nee Hirst) got married in February 1953 in a satin brocade gown she bought in the sale at Rushworth’s in Huddersfield.
“It cost nine guineas and I saw it in the window,” said Sheila. “It’s quite a simple design but it has a diamante and pearl trim on the collar.”
Sheila was married for 42 years before being widowed.
St Bartholomew’s vicar, Maureen Read, has loaned three generations of wedding dresses, her own and those of her mother and daughter to the exhibition.