Fit to be tied
In Chicago History Museum's new exhibit, "I Do!: Chicago Ties the Knot," 50 dresses (plus tuxes, jewelry and-hubba-hubba-lingerie) help tailor a view of the city's past.
Worn by Sarah Maria Seymour
Due to the popularity of Queen Victoria’s idyllic 1840 wedding, women began cramming themselves into dresses via corsets (evidenced by several on display, including one so tiny, a museumgoer commented “that can’t be real”). This 1854 style—the oldest in the exhibit—boasts a teeny waist and a removable bodice. Not everyone had the good queen’s cash flow, and most 19th-century brides wore their skirts and bodices several times.
Worn by Mary Landon Baker
Designer House of Worth
This dress made it to Fourth Presbyterian church three times, and in each instance its well-heeled wearer got cold feet. Baker, who was set to marry Allister Hamilton McCormick (yes, one of those McCormicks), made the tabloids with her high-society faux pas, receiving the nickname “shy bride” in Time magazine. Baker would die unmarried at 61 after shunning an estimated 65 marriage proposals. The velvet and lace dress made in 1921 shows multiple alterations, likely Baker’s attempt to revamp it each time she left her groom at the altar.
Worn by Louise de Marigny Dewey
Designer Madame Marguerite
Va-va-voom! Rita Hayworth would’ve looked stunning in this satin dress, which made its way to the altar at St. Chrysostom in 1934. And it’s no wonder: During the mid-’30s, wedding dresses started emulating the form-fitting costumes of film’s femme fatales. Because of this style, the trains made popular in Hollywood movies took center stage on the aisle. To this day, brides sport draped bias cuts and long, full trains.
Worn by Jane Easter
Designer Marshall Field and Co.
Staying true to its “give the lady what she wants,” motto, Marshall Field invented the bridal registry in the 1920s. Proving the department store’s bridal salon’s exceptional popularity, several of the 50 dresses on display came from the Chicago store, including this purple taffeta number used in an advertisement in 1954 and later bought in a sale. The museum, which gained Field’s archives once Macy’s acquired the store, lets you thumb through digital copies of old illustrated catalogs.
Worn by Anonymous bridal party
Designer N.A. Hanna Inc.
This 1970 groovy dress and nearly neon bridesmaid ensembles reflect the style of the times—Twiggy-esque silhouette, bright colors and man-made fabrics. Displaying several examples of bridesmaid garb, the exhibit explains how the superstitious tradition dates back to the medieval era—bridal duplicates were sent down the aisle to confuse the devil, who was after the virgin bride…obviously.
Worn by Kathryn Hill and Vivek Venugopal
In honor of their various heritages and family traditions, this couple threw no fewer than six 2009 wedding ceremonies for friends in South Bend and India. Each fete celebrated their marriage to the hilt, and the exhibit shows off one of the six bride-groom ensembles and a wealth of jewelry.