As part of the preparation for our 20 years celebrations, our Chinese Bronzes and Women’s Library collections will be closed from Monday 26 February, reopening with the rest of our new season on Thursday 21 March.

#ThrowbackThursday: Wedding Edition

#ThrowbackThursday: Wedding Edition


It looks like a day for a white wedding, so let’s have a wedding throwback to the 1950s!


Our summer exhibition, Britain in the Fifties: Design and Aspiration, explores post-war Britain through the perspective of a young couple. We have been kindly loaned objects from the British Motor Museum, Southend Museums, and the V&A. But what makes this exhibition steeped in nostalgia are the objects the local community have lent to us.


Take for example, the wedding dress. It is perhaps in itself the most important dress a woman will wear in her lifetime.  The many questions going through the bride’s mind: what colour? What length?  Sweetheart neckline or something with sleeves? Do I look good in it?


So what’s the story behind the wedding dress in this exhibition? It belongs to Jackie Nash and here is her story:

‘We were married on Easter Tuesday on March 31st 1959. It had to be on a Bank Holiday because a lot of my husband’s family could not close their shops. And we had to be married before the end of the tax year. In those days, if you married before April 5th, you received a tax refund – so March was a very popular month to get married!

I purchased this dress from Selrights in Coventry which was situated at the top of Hertford Street and Broadgate. It always had a window full of bridal gowns. I had tried a few on but fell for this one. I loved its new hemline up at the front and down at the back, the lovely bodice and long sleeves. My Aunt came over the day before the wedding to iron it for me.

So after having only had £47 pounds saved, and spending £25 on my dress, it was worth it…I felt very grand on the day!’


1950s wedding britain fifties

‘Back then, people used to wear their wedding dresses again for balls and parties. You would alter it of course. But I never did. It’s been sat in a box in my loft for 56 years!’ Jackie Nash.


Mr and Mrs Nash at the Private Viewing

Over 50 years later, Mr and Mrs Nash at the Private Viewing of Britain in the Fifties.


Here’s another wedding featured in Britain in the Fifties, courtesy of Emily Medcraft and her grandparents.


1950s wedding dagenham

Tony and Beryl Wyle on their wedding day.


‘My grandparents were married in Dagenham on September 3 1950. Nan’s dress, head dress and veil were borrowed from her sister who was married some five years before. It had been lent to their other sister and friends before her, so the outfit definitely ticks the borrowed box! They look so happy and dapper and I love looking at the photographs and pointing out who everyone is to my daughter.

After the ceremony, they had a light lunch back at home, all supplied by the local Co-op. Despite being eighty-six this year, my Nan remembers exactly what they were given for wedding gifts, what they spent tokens and cash on – all practical items for the home.‘


A lot of the Fifties exhibition showcases the aspirations of newly-weds in the brave new world. Good, quality design became increasingly affordable as Britain prospered. However, it took a while for prosperity to trickle down. The war was over but austerity continued. During the Second World War, there was a strong sense of camaraderie during wedding season as rations were pooled together to make the wedding cake. This feel of community continued into the fifties, where a certain self-consciousness in what was considered ‘affordable’ affected what was seen on the wedding registry.  So much so that the radio was considered expensive. Emily reflects on how this meant that ‘later on in married life, my Grandad togged himself up in his Sunday best to see the bank manager to get a loan of £25 for one. He was turned down but eventually they got a radio through hire purchase.’


Do you think the wedding experience has changed since then? Comment below!


If you want to see the wedding dress and picture in person, come and see ‘Britain in the Fifties: Design and Aspiration’. 


Running from Sat 9 July – Sun 2 Oct, 11am-5pm.