In the late 20th century China, embroidered satin ensembles were popular wedding fashions. Photographs courtesy of Kent State University Museum

Spotting a bride is nearly always cause for excitement. Whether watching a bride about to walk down the aisle, or enjoying an unexpected glimpse of a bride out in public, something about every happy couple turns heads and generates smiles. Beginning Sept. 16 and running through next August, a new exhibition at the Kent State University Museum (515 Hilltop Drive, Kent) captures all this drama and fun, plus a whole lot more.
Dr. Sara Hume, curator/professor at the Kent State University Museum describes the exhibition – As the World Weds: Global Wedding Traditions – as a “historic survey of American weddings that we have situated within a global context to show the variety around the world.” She adds, “It’s important to show beyond white wedding dresses. A lot of pieces in this exhibit have never been exhibited before.”
The items featured in the exhibition include traditional American white wedding gowns from throughout the 20th century, plus wedding gowns and accessories from China, Ghana, India, Japan, Guatemala, Turkey and elsewhere. Revealing the deep symbolism often associated with bridal fashion and textiles, the items in the exhibition include bright red robes from China, handwoven Kente cloth from Ghana, an Indian sari, a Japanese kimono, Japanese bedding created with a process known as

Starting Sept. 16, the Kent State University Museum will exhibit a global look at wedding fashions through time, with pieces like this American wedding dress from 1919.

resist dyeing, and ikat fabric from Uzbekistan with characteristic cloud-like patterns.
Dr. Hume explains that many cultures “have adopted white wedding dresses but a lot of places will have multiple ceremonies with different garments that they wear.” For instance, she continues, “the double-happiness symbol of the phoenix and the dragon appear on male and female robes in China, featuring very rich color choices.”
In keeping with the exhibition’s goal of examining the evolution of wedding traditions across time and cultures, the pieces often reflect important religious and socials norms, as well as the economic arrangement often associated with weddings. Some of these artifacts are windows into the past, and not necessarily reflective of current wedding traditions. “These would be gifts or part of a dowry that brides take into the wedding,” Dr. Hume explains, referring to historical traditions.
Arranged throughout the Broadbent Gallery, the Museum’s largest exhibit space, the exhibition will also feature fashions for the bridegroom, as well as mother-of-the-bride gowns from 1913 and the 1980s, a flower-girl dress from the 1930s, and bridesmaid’s attire from early to late 1900s. In addition, cake toppers, veils, shoes and other accessories will be part of the exhibition.
Research and other preparations for the exhibit are ongoing. “I have some student assistants who help with research, and I am working on writing a catalog,” Dr. Hume explains, referring to an item that will be available for sale in the museum store. Of course, everything in the exhibit will be labeled and identified with background info and context. Among the plans still in the works are other immersive or interactive elements of the exhibit.
The exhibit will offer plenty of fun surprises, such as a 1978 Oscar de la Renta wedding dress, accompanied by a photo of the bride wearing the dress on her wedding day, plus a copy of a 1977 issue of Brides Magazine featuring an ad for that very dress.