Annual bridal gown exhibit opens June 9 through August 29BY Carrie Steinweg
LANSING, Ill. (June 2018) – June has long been a popular wedding month, so it’s the time that the Lansing Historical Society celebrates brides of past by opening an exhibit with local links. In the annual “June Brides” exhibit you’ll find dresses worn by Lansing ladies from throughout the decades. According to Museum Curator Barbara Dust, the oldest dress in the collection dates back to 1880, before Lansing was even incorporated as a village.
Last year 65 dresses were displayed in the museum, which is located in the lower level of the Lansing Public Library. Most were wedding gowns, but others were bridesmaid dresses or impressive dresses that would have been suitable guest attire. Accessories such as shoes, veils, and headpieces complete the exhibit.
“It’s hard to say what’s the most unusual dress, but I think the two flapper-style short wedding dresses from the 1920s could qualify,” said Dust.
One dress in the collection is from the 1930s and was worn by Julia Gault, a founding member of the Lansing Historical Society and the first curator. Gault garnered national attention when she sued her employer, T.F. South High School, for age discrimination for their mandatory retirement age of 65. The case went to the US Supreme Court, Dust explained, and the court ruled in her favor.
Dust mentioned that a walk through the museum to see the bridal gowns gives a good overview of how fashions have changed over the past century. “I enjoy learning about the fashion trends and how they are related to the history of the times, and I add it to the text of the displays,” she said. “I enjoy finding out the stories of the young couples and trying to make the exhibit relevant to the visitors by asking their input about their weddings. One year we asked people the music that was played at their weddings. We downloaded the songs mentioned and play them during the exhibit hours. This year I am planning to elicit stories of wedding flowers because I was touched by the story of Meghan Merkel’s bouquet being Diana’s favorite flowers.”
Although the exhibit includes many of the same dresses from year to year, the arrangement is always a bit different. Dust said, “Every year we display some dresses that have not been out for a long time as well as some gowns that are just so iconic for their era that we have to put them out each year.” Some of the dresses are becoming too fragile to handle and place on mannequins without damaging them.
While lengths and styles have varied over the decades, nearly every wedding dress on display is in traditional shades of white or ivory—but not all of them.
“My favorite gown is the one worn by Joan Reich in the 1950s. It is a light shade of blue with a very full skirt. I love it because it reminds me of the blue gown in the Disney Cinderella movie of my childhood,” said Dust.
She is also fond of a black chemise dress with red roses embroidered with beads. “They were hand sewn by the wearer’s sister,” said Dust. “It is not really a wedding dress, but we put it out as a ‘wedding guest’ dress because it is just so beautiful.
June Brides has been a regular part of the museum for 30 years. This year the exhibit opens June 9 and runs through August 29 and can be viewed during the museum’s regular hours: 6:00–8:00pm on Mondays, 3:00–5:00pm on Wednesdays; and 11:00am–1:00pm on Saturdays. Tours can also be arranged by appointment by calling 708-474-7497.