A large collection of wedding dresses worn by the region's women before the 1900s through to the war-time designs of the iconic fashionista Christian Dior have made a comeback at the historic Dundullimal Homestead.
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Despite it being over a century since the era when feminine slim-line dresses were worn, they're still "very much part of the wedding fashion", says Australian history lecturer Sarah Bendall.
Dr Bendall, who grew up in Peak Hill - a farming town just outside of Dubbo, spoke about the interesting eras of wedding dress fashions in Australia at the Dundullimal exhibition over the weekend.
A throng of audiences admired the collections that were unveiled from the private closets of local ladies who volunteer at Dundullimal, as well as the fashion collection of Lynn-Maree Dunn.
On display was a 1970s wool dress made from locally-grown wool as well as designs by the city's popular dressmaker Paul Stephens who has made wedding gowns for over five decades.
Ms Dunn owns one of the largest collections of wedding dress fashions that Dr Bendall said are "mirrors of fashions and perceptions on women's body shapes tied to the wedding dress and undergarments they wore" at the time.
"We look back into the past and some people even ask 'why did they wear those' so there is always the importance placed on women's body shapes, tied to undergarments and changing bridal fashions over the last 500 years or so," she said.
"As with everything, the wedding dress they wore followed the trends, norms, and traditions of the times. The Victorian and Edwardian eras through to the 1920s showed when the hemlines went up [above the knee length] during the women's revolution.
"In the 1920s to the 1930s, the fashions were examples of body-hugging slender cut wedding dresses, and they're beautiful."
But the secret for brides looking shapely and blooming on their wedding day was the undergarment they wore underneath their exquisite wedding dresses, Dr Bendall said.
"Corsets in the early days like the Spanx these days are truly back in fashion because there's always this pressure for women to look good in a certain way so if you've got problem areas such as belly, lumps, and bumps a choice of undergarment helps to feel confident about oneself," she said.
"There was a bit of fear mongering about corsets [restricting body movements] in the early days but medical and science weren't as advanced then, and with modern elastic undergarments nowadays you can eat a huge dinner and still feel not restrictive."
Before corsets were known in the 19th century, women wore "bodies" and "farthingales" as "extreme undergarments" to have an hour-glass shape.
In Dr Bendall's book, Shaping Feminity - Foundation garments, the body and women in early modern England, that was released in 2022, she discusses how the "female silhouette that underwent a dramatic change".
Dr Bendall's book which contains her research of 16th and 17th century England women's "structured form" from queens to courtiers, farmers and servants, all seen in their garments, is displayed at the exhibition and can be purchased at Bloomsbury, Booktopia, and Book Connections in Dubbo.
"There's always this huge interest in vintage wedding dresses with many people getting married every day, and we see how big bridal fashion is," she said.
"If women want to look good, I don't think it's oppressive to wear tight corsets if it makes them feel confident, it empowers them.
"During the first world war, Dior made women look good even with the rationing of fabrics. After the second world war, he made clothes with lots of fabrics because it was available so we see these wedding dresses with petticoats."
But though wedding bells haven't nudged Dr Bendall to choose her style from the exquisite dresses she admired at Dundullimal, she said "it will be simple and timeless".
The Unveiling the Shape of the Vintage Bride exhibition can be viewed at Dundullimal Homestead, 23L Obley Road, Dubbo NSW.
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