Friday, September 29, 2023

Exhibit: Something Old, Something New: Wedding Fashions and Traditions at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

I recently visited the MFA Boston to view ‘Something Old, Something New: Wedding Fashions and Traditions’ curated by Theo Tyson (@ms_theotyson). Tyson (she/they) is the Penny Vinik Curator of Fashion Arts, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, who invites conversations about the sociocultural implications of race, gender, identity, and sexuality through a lens of fashion, art, and culture. [1]

Designer Bob Mackie's 1980s beaded wedding ensemble 

Wedding dresses (left to right) Bob Mackie, Arnold Scaasi and Geoffrey Beene

This single gallery installation is as joyful and engaging as opening, unpacking and savoring a long-closed trousseau or family trunk, redolent of memories, traditions, hopes & dreams— embraced across cultures and over time. Thoughtful and thought provoking; insightful and in-depth, there is something to appeal to every visitor from the glamorous gowns and sparkling jewelry to the accessories and informal family photos--even the soundtrack will have you humming along and reminiscing about these special occasions as a participant or guest. 

It is through these family snapshots that the viewer is reminded of the inclusivity of the ceremony and the celebration -- the desire to share this bond with family and/or friends.

And in these unscripted moments—some ebullient, some contemplative—captured in the family-style photo frame - that will resonate with many visitors. 

The text is tightly written and is peppered with questions for visitors to consider, which shifts the mindset from passive to active engagement. For example, a case is dedicated to the display delicate orange blossom headpieces. The curator reminds the viewer that the symbolism of this delicate flower reaches far back in time, long before Queen Victoria: 

"Orange blossoms symbolize virtue, love, and fertility, and have been associated with weddings for centuries. They have been used in China, India, and Persia to represent purity, innocence, and chastity...You can even see the dainty blooms on the ceremonial brooms of African-Americans that engaged in the "jumping of the broom" tradition that originated during chattel slavery when enslaved peoples were not permitted proper nuptials."

There is much to experience when you visit -- but hurry the exhibition closes on October 1st.

1. For more information on Theo Tyson

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