Always A Bridesmaid At The County Museum

By Staff Reports

(Victor Valley)–A new special exhibit, “Always a Bridesmaid,” will open at the San Bernardino County Museum on Saturday, February 16. The exhibit is included with paid museum admission. An exhibit opening reception for Museum Association members, sponsors, and invited guests is planned for Friday evening, February 15 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. The exhibit will continue through August, 2013.

“Always a Bridesmaid” will feature artifacts from the museum’s historic costume collection worn to marriage ceremonies by brides, grooms, and guests from the 1860s into the 1960s. Visitors to the exhibit can explore related artifacts, traditions, and customs surrounding weddings in the United States in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Examples of fine hand-sewing techniques and tools used on wedding-wear are included in the exhibit.

“Some of our wedding “traditions” – like the bride wearing white – are not particularly old traditions,” said Michele Nielsen, the museum’s curator of history/archives. “White is a very impractical color when you live in a time where fabric is either hand-woven or very expensive, dry cleaning is unknown, and dress styles call for many yards of fabric. Not until the wedding of Queen Victoria in 1840 did brides dream of dressing in white on their wedding day, and in fact until well into the early 20th century, most brides in the United States wore a “best dress” or a traveling outfit for their wedding ceremony, which was often held at home.”

The oldest gown in the exhibit dates from the Civil War era. It is fashioned of milk chocolate-colored silk brocade and dressed up with a crocheted bertha collar. The most recent is an A-line bridesmaid dress fashioned in a fuchsia-colored cotton-polyester fabric that dates from the 1960s. In between is a wide variety of bustles, pleats, puffs, lace, embroidery, braids, and sparkle that reflect the fashionable attire of each era.

Wedding photographs, party favors, invitations, and “guides for brides” from past eras are a great way to delve deeper into social customs related to marriage events. These artifacts from the museum’s archives will round out the exhibit. Visitors can pose at the “family portrait” wall and take their own wedding photos, complete with fanciful costume props, or add their funniest nuptial story to our “Memorable Marriage Moments or Mishaps” board.

“Always a Bridesmaid” is sponsored in part by the member guilds of the Western Textile Center Association, a San Bernardino County Museum support organization.

The San Bernardino County Museum is at the California Street exit from Interstate 10 in Redlands. The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 9 am to 5pm. General admission is $8 (adult), $6 (military or senior), $5 (student), and $4 (child aged 5 to 12). Children under five and Museum Association members are admitted free. Parking is free. For more information, visit The museum is accessible to persons with disabilities. If assistive listening devices or other auxiliary aids are needed in order to participate in museum exhibits or programs, requests should be made through Museum Visitor Services at least three business days prior to your visit. Visitor Services’ telephone number is 909-307-2669 ext. 229 or (TDD) 909-792-1462.

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