Old Government House in the grounds of Brisbane’s Queensland University of Technology (QUT) will be the setting for a remarkable exhibition that opens on 12 July and showcases historical bridal gowns from the personal collection of costume designer Marion Boyce.
The Bowerbird and The Bride will include 45 ensembles that feature bridal gowns, bridesmaid and flower girl outfits, along with a stunning array of headpieces, bouquets, and accessories both restored and especially designed by Boyce.
The basis of the exhibition comes from Boyce’s own private collection that has been accumulated over many years, buying both at home and when travelling the world. Friends and family have also contributed to the store, as have fans of her film and television costumes (lately from The Dressmaker and Miss Fisher’s Murders), however, the impetus for The Bowerbird and The Bride was a recent gift of period and vintage wedding dresses that inspired Boyce to consider her collection and then present this collection for public viewing.
The exhibition has been co-curated by local museum professional Christopher Salter, who first met Boyce when she travelled to Brisbane to discuss her work in conjunction with the Hollywood Costume exhibition that he had curated at City Hall in 2014. Together Boyce and Salter have designed an exhibition that not only presents authentic fashion but also documents the style and etiquette of society of the day and how women expressed themselves through the clothes that they wore.
Highlights include an unusual 1880s broadcloth bridal dress in the style of noted European couturier Charles Worth, gifted to Boyce at age 21 by acclaimed Australian artist Mirka Mora; a glamorous 1930s bias cut silk gown and a sumptuous 1950s sunray pleated organza wedding dress that typified a fashionable dress of the post-war boom.
Boyce has an outstanding pedigree as a costume designer but also understands and values the work of the local or family dressmaker commenting, “I like that the exhibition shows that beautiful fashion doesn’t have be from a famous designer or belong to a film star. The dresses really are a celebration of that family member, aunty, neighbour or person in the community who made these family treasures that have been kept and valued for generations.”
The exhibition was more than a year in the making and the items gathered together from across her collection include undergarments, veils and other accessories to create each bridal outfit.
“When I design, I design a whole entire outfit, not just a single garment. So preparing the exhibition was the same thing. Finding a veil that I thought would help tell the story of a wedding dress. Or thinking about the kind of flowers a certain bride might have carried up the aisle. I saw them as characters that needed to be fully realised to be brought to life,” Boyce explains.
Curator of Old Government House, Dr Katie McConnel, said The Bowerbird and The Bride was an ideal project to complement the rich history of the House and the important role women have played in its history.
The Bowerbird and The Bride will open 12 July and close 19 August 2018.