SINCE her wedding at St Mark’s Church in 1989 Sandra Phillips’ wedding dress – a £500 white satin creation decorated with sequins and seed pearls – lay in storage under her bed, cherished but unseen.
Now the dress complete with its lengthy train has a prominent place on the catwalk in Bexhill Museum’s Costume and Social History Gallery for visitors to see and enjoy.
Museum volunteer Georgina Bradley’s wedding dress exhibition in the gallery last year brought such critical acclaim from visitors that she and colleagues Stella Hales-Morris and Yvonne Cleland have refreshed it for 2016 with dresses like Sandra’s.
For her wedding in September 1972 to Frank Cox, Gillian Holliwell wore a white satin and lace dress with bouffant veil with lace trim. Like Sandra, Gillian, now of Eastbourne, has kindly offered her dress for exhibition. With it on display is a photo of the couple on their wedding day at St George’s Church, Crowhurst.
Georgina has been delighted with such public response to the Costume Gallery’s efforts. She plans a rolling display this year with fresh exhibits donated by the public augmenting items from the museum’s store gracing the catwalk and cabinets.
She says: “It’s thanks to the quite extraordinary generosity of the Bexhill public and the public in general that we are able to display so much.”
Costume has been a life-long passion for Georgina, who after a West End career now lectures at Sussex Downs College and is a member of the South Eastern Costume Society.
She is grateful to museum curator Julian Porter for his help and support and to David Hughes who heads the maintenance team volunteers. Like the rest of the museum, the gallery is already benefitting from recently-installed LED lighting under a deal brokered by volunteer Ken Bywater which will not only cut the energy bill but is kinder to delicate fabrics.
Donations have included valuable figures, such as that clad in 1900s page boy sailor suit.
Another wedding dress comes complete with love-letters and housekeeping accounts.
In contrast to the gallery’s sea of white satin comes a black creation and immense studded black boots from a Gothic wedding and items like the “crazy quilt” – hand-made by three sisters living in De La Warr Road between 1879 and 1880.