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Wedding gowns exhibited at Taipei Story House

By Yali Chen
Staff Writer

(Photo courtesy of Taipei Story House)"The Story of Bridal Gowns" at the Taipei Story House is a nearly one-century retrospective of wedding gowns from 1910 until now. A collection of wedding dresses from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Nepal, and Turkey is going on display in Taipei. The special exhibition, which will run until January 25, 2015, aims to take visitors back through the history of Western and Taiwanese wedding gowns in the early 20th century.

The century-old Taipei Story House, a 1913 English Tudor-style structure, now is a historic site. Two or three couples come here each week to shoot their wedding photos, says Chen Kok-choo, Executive Director of the Taipei Story House. That’s how she came up with the special exhibition to showcase a wide variety of wedding dresses from different countries.

In Western cultures, brides often choose a white wedding dress that started to become popular after the marriage of Queen Victoria to Albert of Saxe-Coburg in the 19th century. In eastern countries, women usually wear red on their wedding days as the color symbolizes good fortune and happiness.

But since the 1980s white has become a popular option in Taiwanese weddings, says the exhibition curator Chen Chiu-jhin, who serves as visual arts professor for the University of Taipei.

The highlight of the special exhibition is definitely a wedding gown designed by famed Taiwanese-Canadian fashion designer Jason Wu for his sister-in-law Megumi Dong, who married Wu’s elder brother in 2010. The white dress looks elegant, fashionable and does not follow any traditional style.

In the same year, Wu also launched his first bridal collection on Net-A-Porter.com. The styles ranged from a classic Audrey Hepburn-inspired silk faille gown with a black bow belt, to a modern, relaxed chiffon skirt paired with an embroidered pattern.

(Photo by Yali Chen)Five years ago at her first Inauguration Ball, Michelle Obama shimmered in an off-white, one-shouldered floor-length couture gown by the New York City-based designer. Wu, who was 26 at the time and had only been working in fashion for three years, saw his career take off after the First Lady’s surprise decision to wear one of his dresses.

Among the exhibits are a red kua (traditional two-piece Chinese wedding dress) and gold one, hand-sewn by the Koon Nam Wah Bridal Shop in Hong Kong. They are also getting a lot of attention from visitors interested in traditional Chinese wedding ceremonies.

Generally, the traditional Chinese wedding gown in northern China is a one-piece frock named cheongsam or qipao, embroidered with elaborate gold and silver design as well as a Mandarin-style collar. Brides in southern China, the Guangdong Province and Hong Kong in particular, prefer to wear a two-piece dress dubbed kua or qungua, elaborately embroidered with gold dragon and phoenix.

In Chinese culture, the design of dragon and phoenix symbolizes the balance of male and female power. Unlike dragons of Western lore, fearsome symbols of evil and chaos, the Chinese dragon represents nobility, wisdom and prosperity. Gold dragons share many of these assets and are recognized as symbols of wealth, wisdom and compassion.

Traditionally, Japan’s Shinto-style weddings are held at shrines. Grooms wear a montsuki (a black formal kimono), haori (a kimono jacket), and hakama (kimono pants). Brides wear a traditional white silk kimono called a shiromuku. The design of wedding kimonos is quite simple, without any embroidery, beading, or adornments.

Some Japanese brides paint their faces and bodies white symbolizing purity. Their hair is usually pulled back in a tight bun and decorated with gold accessories.

During her wedding ceremony, a bride puts on a white hood known as a tsuno kakushi, which means that she should hide her “horns of jealousy” and obey her husband. After the wedding ceremony, she will take it off and cover her shiromuku with an uchikake – a colorful and elaborate silk kimono. Even though uchikakes are available in a wide variety of bright colors, most brides choose the color red or gold, regarded as good luck and joy in Japanese culture. Made of silk and silk brocade, uchikakes feature elaborately embroidered patterns of nature scenes such as peony and chrysanthemum flowers, pine branches, and white cranes.

Japanese brides wear a traditional white silk kimono called a shiromuku.After the end of the Nguyễn Dynasty between 1802 and 1945, Vietnamese women began to wear an elaborate áo dài for their wedding ceremonies. Seen as the national costume, the áo dài is a Vietnamese traditional long gown. Like cheongsam in Chinese culture, it has become the symbol of feminine beauty in Vietnam.

The áo dài on display at the Taipei Story House was designed by Vietnamese designer-artist Si Hoang, who has been dedicated to áo dài creations for the past 24 years. Made of silk, this dress was one piece of the Imperial Collection he launched in 2009. Since 2012 it has also been collected by the Áo Dài Museum in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 9.

Thai women wear a Chakkraphat dress on their big day. The term Chakkraphat means emperor in Thai. This traditional wedding attire features a one-shoulder, sleeveless top paired with a long silk shawl.

A lehenga choli or ghagra choli has become popular in northern and western India for centuries. The Indian traditional wedding dress comes in a wide range of material including silk, satin, chiffon, georgette, net and cotton. It also consists of a lehenga, choli and dupatta.

The legenga is a low-waist, long pleated skirt. The choli is a short-sleeved blouse that allows women to reveal their belly and navel. It is usually paired with a lehenga or saree, worn in India, southern Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. The dupatta is a long light scarf. It has long been a symbol of modesty in South Asian culture. Women in South Asian countries usually wear the dupatta across their shoulders, using it as a cape around their entire torso or as a veil to cover their face and head.

A wedding saree or sari is also worn by women in South Asian countries on their big day and widely regarded as a graceful symbol of Indian, Nepali, Bangladeshi, and Sri Lankan cultures.

Nepali brides, for example, usually put on red sarees with golden embroidery during their wedding ceremonies. They also wear a wide variety of jewelry such as a necklace and chain bracelet.

For over five thousand years, mehendi or henna, which symbolizes good luck and health, has been used as a temporary form of skin decoration during Hindu weddings and festivals. Many brides usually have mehendi applied to their hands, arms, legs, and feet.

A wedding saree or sari is worn by women in South Asian countries.A mehndi ceremony usually takes place in the presence of family members, relatives and friends just before marriage. Brides cannot step out of their home after this ceremony. According to popular belief, the darker the color of the mehndi, the more her husband will love her.

Turkish brides wear a Bindalli dress on their wedding days. Made of purple or dark red velvet, the traditional wedding gown is a symbol of the relationship between mother and daughter. Handed down through generations, it is a long velvet robe elaborately embroidered with silver or gold floral motifs.

"The Story of Bridal Gowns"
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