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Wedding fashion and nostalgia

22 January 2014 / 23:01:19  GRReporter
4575 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova

Dresses with long trains and fine lace, sheer and solid fabrics, and folk elements fill the collection of 70 wedding dresses presented within the context of the exhibition "Brides. Tradition and Fashion in Greece" arranged in the new building of the Benaki Museum in Athens.

In today's age when marriage is not particularly popular among young people these very beautiful creations, albeit yellow with age, still emanate the beauty of the moment and are still a "declaration of allegiance to the need for people to share their lives," notes museum director Angelos Delivorias.

The exhibition includes wedding dresses from the 19th to the early 21st century. The traditional gowns in which Greek brides got married began to change in the early 20th century, when the colour white was slowly but gradually introduced. Initially, it appeared as a veil over the traditional ornate headscarves and kerchiefs worn by women. This supplement was only a small part of the white wedding dress established in Europe after the wedding of Queen Victoria. It gradually gained popularity in Greece, with a few exceptions of certain regions where women had preserved their traditional bridal attire for a long time.

Some of the dresses are creations of legendary Greek fashion houses like Mady Donnet, Georgette, C. Mavropoulos, Tsopanelis fashion house, Tsouhlos fashion house, Nikos-Takis fashion house. Others feature the finesse and brands of world famous industry representatives such as Jean Dessès, Mme Grès, Yves Dooms and Etienne Brunel.

Some of the exhibits present also reproductions of traditional wedding costumes from the regions of Attica and Argolis, the traditional way of arranging the dowry of the brides from the village of Megara near Athens and even the wedding dress of the mother-in-law of today's Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, Teti Papantoniou. Among the first exhibits, visitors will see two newlyweds from Cyprus whose dress and suit one can barely notice due to the bank notes hanging on them. According to the organisers, this custom had developed from the former one, in which the people covered the newlyweds with coins. There are also colourful dresses, including two traditional ones from the regions of Bursa and Argos and a cyclamen fashion gown from 1929 that was used as a wedding dress in the region of Thrace.

The majority of the dresses are donations from their owners to the Folklore Foundation in the Peloponnese. "The interesting thing is that after we announced the organisation of the exhibition on our page on the social networks we started receiving other wedding dresses. We could not include them in the exhibition but we have decided to organise a fashion show on the last day of the exhibition during which the girls from the lyceum of Greek women will show them," said foundation director Yoanna Papantoniou.

At the same time, users are posting a lot of wedding photos of their grandparents and parents on the Facebook page of Benaki Museum, the majority of which hide interesting stories. For example, the wedding dress of a bride from Nafplio, whose wedding ceremony took place during the German occupation, was made from a parachute. The wedding dress of another woman had been sent by her brother who had left for the USA years before her wedding in 1945 whereas the names of the happy and quite modern newlyweds in some photos from the period between the wars remain unknown. The Foundation promises to do everything possible to publish an album with all these photos and the comments below them.

While walking among the romantic dresses, smiling faces and shy glances of the brides in the photos you will inevitably remember Pantelis Voulgaris’ film. His "Brides" are sad, they travel to America to marry strangers. Some of them are young children whereas others leave behind not only their families but also their loved ones.

American photographer Norman Harris is on board the ship too. He falls in love with tailor Nikki who goes to New York to marry Prodromos, whom she has seen only in photos. Norman is able to persuade the brides, in their dresses, to stand before his lens. The love that has flamed between him and Nikki remains on board the ship. Years after her marriage she sees herself on the cover of a magazine, in which Norman has published the photos of the brides.

The exhibition at the Benaki Museum opens on 23 January and runs through 6 April. You can look through some photos of the dresses in our GRR images section as well.

Tags: Wedding dressesTraditionFashionExhibitionBenaki Museum
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