Some of the most popular exhibits at the State College of Florida art gallery in recent years have featured costumes of one kind or another. A few years back the gallery featured costumes from Asolo Repertory Theatre, and last year theaters in the Bradenton-Sarasota area created costumes made from recycled materials.
The latest show at the gallery opens Friday, and features more than 50 wedding dresses and suits, temporarily donated by individuals, shops and museums from around the area.
"Art of the Wedding Costume: Ritual and Romance" opens Friday and stays up until Dec. 3 in the Fine Art Gallery at SFC's campus in Bradenton. It explores the history of the wedding gown over the past 160 years or so, and tells moving and dramatic stories of the clothes and the people who wore them.
The oldest dresses date back to the middle of the 19th century. Some are so old and fragile, they almost fell apart when the curators touched them.
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Aside from the brilliant white dresses of contemporary American and European wedding gowns (a custom that began with Queen Victoria), the exhibit includes business suits worn by a local woman who was older when she married, Indian saris and traditional Norwegian bunads. There's a non-traditional wedding dress worn by a "flapper" in the 1920s, displayed next to an elegant gown worn by a traditional woman of the time.
Many are displayed with the stories of their owners, such as the World War I-era dress of a young bride whose fiancée was killed before the wedding. She never had a chance to wear her gown, and it has been seen by only a few people in the past 96 years.
An opening reception, with complimentary wedding cake, is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. Friday.
Details: Sept. 19-Dec. 3, State College of Florida Fine Art Gallery, 5840 26th St. W., Bradenton. Admission: Free. Exhibit hours: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday. Information: 941-752-5225, scf.edu.
-- Marty Clear