KENTVILLE, NS - The launch of a wedding dress exhibit at the Kings County Museum coinciding with the upcoming royal nuptials is nothing short of serendipitous.
“Wedding Belles Bridal Shop”, a display of vintage 20th century wedding dresses from the Kings Historical Society’s permanent collection, runs from May 18 until the end of August at the Kings County Museum in Kentville.
Curator Bria Stokesbury said planning for the dress exhibit began about two years ago, well before the May 19 wedding date of Prince Harry of Wales to American actress Meghan Markle was known.
Kings Historical Society president Maynard Stevens came up with the idea of also holding an event for the public to congratulate the royal couple. The society will celebrate the royal wedding a day in advance on May 18 at 2 p.m. with a special tea at the museum. Everyone is welcome to attend.
Town crier Lloyd Smith will help the society announce its best wishes to the couple and a card of congratulations will be available for members of the public to sign. Kentville Mayor Sandra Snow and Kings County Mayor Peter Muttart have already confirmed their attendance.
Stevens said that when Queen Elizabeth II surpassed Queen Victoria as the longest reigning British monarch, they held a celebration called “A Toast to Her Majesty.” A lot of people were interested and attended so he thought it would be a good idea to host a similar celebration of the royal wedding. People around the world are interested in the nuptials, whether they’re British subjects or not.
Sometimes you hear people say Canada shouldn’t have the monarchy anymore but Stevens disagrees. He said it’s a rich part of our history, especially in Kentville, with the town being named after Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent. Prince Edward was the father of Queen Victoria and is the great, great, great, great, great grandfather of Prince Harry.
“There’s rich history here in Kings County with members of the royal family,” Stevens said.
Kings Historical Society textile committee members Helen Seymour of Highbury and Ruth Butler of Wolfville and refreshment committee member Doris Illsley of Kentville were busy volunteering at the museum on April 25, preparing the wedding garments for display.
Butler said she believes the reason why so many people look forward royal weddings and remember them so fondly is that they’re kind of like a real-life fairy tale. She looks forward to watching the wedding, especially to see what the bride and everyone else is wearing.
Butler thinks it’s wonderful timing to have the dress exhibit coinciding with the royal wedding, although Stokesbury had no idea this would be the case when planning for the exhibit began. She thinks it was “written in the stars.”
“I think it’s going to be amazing and I hope lots and lots of people come out for the tea on the 18th of May, that should be wonderful,” Butler said.
When it comes to the dresses being featured, she said they’re beautiful and varied with different fabrics and styles. For example, looking at a dress dating from the 1930’s, you could almost envision the era.
Stokesbury said that, in recent years, there has been quite an influx into the collection of beautiful wedding dresses from the 20th century. She said they have a textile committee that has been working to preserve historic garments for years and it’s been a while since the museum has hosted a textile exhibit. She said there’s always a lot of excitement surrounding royal nuptials and the exhibit is “a natural tie-in.”
“We just thought why not take some of these wedding dresses out and have a lovely display of those because it’s popular this time of year,” Stokesbury said. “It just was very lucky for us that everything was aligned and it coincided in a year where there was a royal wedding.”
The exhibit will feature approximately 10 dresses. Some are rather fragile and will be inside display cases. Conservator and historical society vice president Kelly Bourassa will provide information on gown care and conservation for people looking to preserve wedding dresses. There will be a display of traditional accessories, such as bouquets, garters and veils, and explanations of the history and symbolism behind them. Historical society members will be providing wedding photos for a display illustrating how styles changed during the 20th century and perhaps to see if others can guess who is depicted in the images.
Stokesbury said you don’t see the pomp and circumstance of royal nuptials every day. Royal weddings are highly steeped in tradition and watching one can be like taking a step back in time. They are fairy tale events that bring the whole world together, so why not celebrate them.
Did you know?
The tradition of wearing a white wedding gown began in 1840 with the royal wedding of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Her choice of a white dress was considered unusual at a time when it was common for brides to wear coloured dresses.