Weddings take centre stage in Ripon Cathedral exhibition which celebrates almost 150 years of bridal gowns

They are a reminder of one of the biggest days of any woman’s life, as well as a snapshot of the fashions throughout the decades.

The Very Reverend John Dobson, Dean of Ripon, outside the Cathedral with a wedding dress from the new exhibition Photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe

And now a new exhibition is set to celebrate almost 150 years of wedding dresses as examples of exquisite craftmanship go on display at Ripon Cathedral.

Some 50 dresses will take centre-stage at the Cathedral’s new exhibition, A Century of Wedding Gowns, which opened on Tuesday and runs until September 19.

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Curated by retired wedding dress shop owner Kevin Thornhill, the dresses date from 1885 up until the present day and include a winter velvet creation by Coco Chanel.

Some 50 dresses will take centre-stage at the Cathedral’s new exhibition, A Century of Wedding Gowns, which opened on Tuesday and runs until September 19. Photo: Jonathan Gawthorpe

And next month Mr Thornhill will also showcase Royal wedding dress replicas he has expertly recreated for a fashion show to mark the 40th anniversary of the wedding of the Princess of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer.

Mr Thornhill has collected dozens of vintage wedding gowns over the years, as well as creating other Royal bridal replicas including of the Duchess of Sussex’s Givenchy dress, and the Duchess of Cambridge’s Sarah Burton creation, which will also be shown at the fashion show on July 29.

And a Yorkshire connection is celebrated in the exhibition with a replica dress of that worn by Katherine Worsley for her marriage to Edward, Duke of Kent, in York Minster in 1961

Fans of Downton Abbey, the period drama set in North Yorkshire, will also be able to see a replica of the wedding tiara worn by Michelle Dockery, who played Lady Mary Crawley.

Mr Thornhill said: “These dresses have been donated by families who have decided to pass them on. The dresses in the exhibition are mostly ones that are so small that no one can really wear them these days – even on some of the mannequins, we’ve struggled.

“Some of these waistbands are 16 or 18 inches.

“The more modern dresses, I don’t associate much with the older styles, but some of the fashions have come back. Diana really set the style in the 1980s, and the fashions became much bigger, and some people even now still want those big skirts.”

And for one Ripon resident, the news of the exhibition sparked her to make her own donation.

It will now feature a gown donated by Christine Wood, who herself married at the cathedral in 1964.

She said: “Having thought that I had lost my wedding dress during a house move, it turned up in a box in the loft years later.

“I love the fact that my wedding dress will once again be inside the cathedral after 57 years since my wedding.”