Wedding Gowns Across the Decades Returns at New Location

wedding dresses across the decades

Oaklands Mansion and the Woman’s Club of Murfreesboro have partnered to bring back the beloved “Wedding Gowns Across the Decades and Cultures” display of historical and multicultural wedding attire. This year the display is located at Baskette House, also known as the Woman’s Club, instead of at Oaklands Mansion.

More than 30 gowns are on display representing the years from 1870 until 2021. The display explores not only the changes in fashion over the decades but how those changes in fashion reflect women’s history, cultural history and community history over the years.

The exhibit opened on June 2, and continues through June 18th on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Hours of the exhibit are Fridays and Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., and on Sundays from 1:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. Admission is $15 per person.

No advance tickets are available this year. Tickets will be sold at the door of the Women’s Club using cash and checks only. The Women’s Club is located at 221 E. College Street in downtown Murfreesboro.

Along with the gowns will be photos of many of the brides when they originally wore it, as well as the story of the couple and their life together. The display will feature some old favorite dresses and some that will become new favorites.

“After hosting the Wedding Dress Exhibit for nine years,” said Jackie Jenkins of The Woman’s Club, “Oaklands Mansion determined it was in their best interest to no longer continue with the exhibit. The opportunity to host the exhibit was then brought to me as President of The Woman’s Club, and we now consider it to be the Club’s offering to the community.”

With the help of three other club members, Jenkins performed a feasibility study that was presented to the Woman’s Club Board in March of 2022. Upon approval, they began planning the Club’s Wedding Dresses Across Decades and Cultures Exhibit. The planning committee included Rebecca Cross and Jackie Jenkins as Co-Chairs, Donna Barrett, Juanita Greer, Sandra Hawkins, Linda Roberts, and Linda Tabor.

“We have dresses on loan from local women, Oaklands, and Middle Tennessee State University dating from the 1870’s to 2021,” noted Jenkins.  “Included are Chinese, Japanese, South Korean and Indian wedding dresses.”

James Manning (of Oaklands Mansion) and Mary Beth Nevills, who now works for Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation, have partnered with the Woman’s Club to help in the transition. Nevills was in charge of the exhibit for many years when she was working at Oaklands and was good enough to share her knowledge and expertise.

“James loaned us dresses and other materials, as well as generously sharing Oaklands’ large media presence through joint press releases and mailings,” explained Jenkins.

Gowns come from Oakland Mansions’ curated collection that is under the care of Middle Tennessee State University’s (MTSU) Department of Human Services, as well as members of the community. Added to this year’s display will be unique attire that reflects the diverse cultures in the Rutherford County community.

Past displays have included the 2008 handmade gown of Demetria Kalodimos, which is an original design by Rosie Woodruff of Textile Fabrics in Nashville. This year, gowns include a cream brocade gown worn by Nemmie Jenkins Rucker when she wed Dr. J.J. Rucker on January 9, 1879, and the 2005 wedding dress worn by Amy Jenkins.

Jenkins’ dress was designed and sewn by a bridal shop owner in Raleigh, North Carolina. It is made of raw white silk that features a strapless fitted bodice and a waist encircled with pearls. The plunging V-shaped back is secured by tiny buttons covered in silk. The full skirt flows into a chapel-length train that converts into a double French bustle.  The long veil is edged with pearls and is secured by a tiara of rhinestones and pearls. The bride’s bouquet was of white peonies adorned with white silk streamers.

On loan from the Center for Chinese Music and Culture at Middle Tennessee State University is one of their traditional Chinese apparel. It is only one of four dresses from other cultures. In Chinese culture, the color red is a symbol of happiness and good luck. The groom would also wear red. It is the most symbolic color in the culture, especially in events such as weddings, the New Year and the Lantern Festival.  However, during the mid-20th century, this was not practiced. Only since the 1980s has the red wedding dress in Chinese culture become a tradition.

“The Woman’s Club is excited for this opportunity to partner with Oaklands Mansion,” said Jenkins. “Please join us as we host this exhibit, open to the public, and witness the evolution in bridal fashion from different areas, eras and cultures as we transcend time to the modern-day bride.”

The exhibit opened on June 2, and it will run on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through June 18, 2023. Friday and Saturday hours are from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., and from 1:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is $15 per person.

This event is sponsored by Rutherford Convention and Visitors Bureau, The Barrett Group, Murfreesboro Dental, Murfreesboro Flower Shop, Murfreesboro Wine and Spirits, MTSU Department of Human Services, Celeste Middleton State Farm, Nashboro Chic, Stewart’s Special Events, Stones River Dermatology, Studio C Photography, Tasty Table Fine Events Catering, and WGNS Radio.

Wedding Gowns Across the Decades and Cultures
June 2 – June 18 on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays
Fridays & Saturdays 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Sundays 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
WHERE: Woman’s Club, 221 E. College Street in downtown Murfreesboro
COST: $15 per person

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