May 27–October 1, 2023

Something Old, Something New

Wedding Fashions and Traditions

From white silk dresses to diamond rings and wreaths of orange blossoms, some wedding traditions have endured over hundreds of years and countless shifts in culture, style, and social norms. This exhibition explores the origins of American wedding customs and looks at how they’ve evolved—and stayed the same—from the 19th century to today. Thematic groupings present more than 20 objects from the MFA’s fashion collection—including bridal dresses, shoes, jewelry, undergarments, and accessories—while a wall of nearly 20 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. Exhibition 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 in the 18th century 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 exciting changes and lasting trends surrounding marriage ceremonies in America.

  • Edward and Nancy Roberts Family Gallery (Gallery LG26)