May 27–October 1, 2023

Something Old, Something New

Wedding Fashions and Traditions

Through fashion, jewelry, and photography from the 18th century to today, “Something Old, Something New” explores the origins of wedding customs in the United States and offers insight into how they’ve endured over hundreds of years and countless shifts in culture, style, and social norms. Can the traditional “white wedding” be reinterpreted—should it be? How can these traditions be made more inclusive?

Equal parts celebration and interrogation, this exhibition looks at how traditional American wedding customs—from white silk dresses to diamond rings and wreaths of orange blossoms—fit into the beliefs and truths of the modern American family.

Fashion, Photography, and More

The exhibition features more than 20 objects from the MFA’s fashion collection, with everything from bridal dresses, shoes, and jewelry to undergarments and accessories. Additionally, a wall of fourteen photographs shows brides and grooms throughout the decades, from formal portraits taken by Cecil Beaton, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Edward Weston to candid snapshots by unidentified photographers. Fashion highlights include contemporary dresses designed by Arnold Scaasi—who iconized Barbra Streisand, designed for first lady Barbara Bush, and draped Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Rivers, and Barbara Walters—as well as by Quincy native Priscilla Comins Kidder, the owner of the legendary Priscilla of Boston bridal boutique who dressed Grace Kelly’s bridesmaids and Presidents Johnson’s and Nixon’s daughters for their weddings. These and other exquisite objects, from a gold wedding band made by Paul Revere to a turquoise-and-pearl brooch designed by Prince Albert for Queen Victoria’s bridesmaids on the occasion of their 1840 wedding, reveal the changes and trends surrounding marriage ceremonies in America.

  • Edward and Nancy Roberts Family Gallery (Gallery LG26)


Boston Weddings

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