Explore the evolution of wedding fashion in Croatia from the 19th century to the present day tracing the influences of contemporary European fashion trends.

The wedding dress collection

Wedding dresses in the Collection of Textile and Fashion Accessories of the Museum of Arts and Crafts derive from different periods from around 1865 to 2012. Most were donated by brides, former owners, several purchased, while designer wedding dresses were donated by their designers – Igor Galaš, Domagoj Štimac and Damir Begović (Twins), Vjeko Franetović and Nikica Ivančević from EnvyRoom. Places of origin are very different, but most often Vienna and Zagreb. The first wedding dress was purchased for the collection in 1943.

Apart from wedding dresses, other parts of wedding outfits are also in the collection – veils, wreaths, toques, shoes, handbags and gloves. Some of these items are parts of completely preserved wedding sets, while others are the only remaining part of the bride's wedding outfit. Their number, diversity and remarkable life stories of their owners were an incentive for the realization of a temporary exhibition “For Better or for Worse – Wedding Clothes From 1865 to Today” in 2015, the basis for the virtual exhibit.

19th Century - Forming Tradition
Wedding clothes and wedding celebrations in the society of the 19th century have become the best place of showing financial power. The rules in dressing the bride were set by the British Queen Victoria, who in 1840 married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg in a simple white silk satin wedding dress decorated with traditional English Honiton lace. The Queen wore a long veil and a wreath of orange blossoms. Although already known, all of the elements of Queen Victoria's wedding equipment from the moment of her marriage became mandatory.

Corset
1970 - 1980
linen, fishbone

Corset from the late 19th century made of white linen with inlaid herringbone, tailored at the waist, decorated with perforated white embroidery worn as an underpiece.

Construction for Cul de Paris
1880 - 1885
cotton linen, horsehair, metal strings

Construction for Cul de Paris, the prominent rear part of the dress created with specially made cushions or metal structures

Art Nouveau - White as a Fashion Imperative
Unlike the 19th century, which would allow different shades of white in wedding fashion, Art Nouveau was a time when white wedding dress fashion was a must-have. Favorite fabrics for daytime women's clothes were silk chiffon, lightweight cotton fabrics such as batiste and voilée as they made clothes seem lighter, softer and more airy. For wedding dresses more expensive and sturdier materials were still used such as silk satin, silk taffeta and silk damask. 

Wedding dress
Split, Croatia
c. 1910
lace on tulle, silk, lace, embroidery

Wedding dress
Vienna, Austria
1907 – 1908

A wedding dress with a typical S line was transformed into an evening gown by adding three semicircular appliques on the bust. One-piece dresses are true a novelity of the Art Nouveau period. Later in the period the S line was replaced by a flat narrow silhouette and high waistline.

Coat
Vienna, Austria (?)
1907
velvet, atlas silk, embroidery, lace

The coat made of light blue wool, trimmed and decorated with blue velvet ribbons, and large white motifs of 'Boteh' relief made of lace and interconnected blue silk twisted rope. The coat was part of Leonija Pusić set, given to her as a parental gift for her wedding.

Silk wedding dress
Vienna
1907
silk taffeta, embroidery, lace, cashmere

The dress was part of a wedding set worn by Leonija Pusić. This dress illustrates the clothing style fashionable at the beginning of the 20th century inspired by Empire.

Dress
Rijeka, Croatia
1910
damask, lace, atlas silk, lace on tulle

The Period Between the two World Wars – From Wedding Dresses to Evening Dresses 
Unlike the 19th and early 20th century when the fabric, cut, construction and decoration of the wedding dress were the same as for day clothes, at this period wedding dresses resemble evening gowns. Metal lame, lace and fabric pale gold and white colour are preferred for fabrics. Such a selection of colours and fabrics gives wedding dresses a dose of glamor and elegance. It is also significant that the ceremony moved to later afternoon hours, which also explains the presence of evening fashion in wedding clothes. During the 1920s the length of the wedding dress gradually shortened, and by the end of 1926 reached the knee. However, the length of the wedding dress was affected by personal taste, fashion awareness, a sense of morality and religiosity of the bride, and, ultimately, financial capabilities. The veil was extremely long, made of solid or transparent fabric and wrapped the face like a nuns veil. The wreath was at first worn low on the forehead, almost above the eyebrows, and later high on top as a crown.

Wedding dress
Skopje, Macedonia
c. 1925
silk, sequins

Wedding dress
Vienna, Austria
1930
silk, machine lace, georgette

The 1940s – Simulation of Luxury in White
Despite the war impoverishment, wedding fashion still tries to maintain the illusion of luxury with a feminine white wedding dresses and a veil. But wartime period bride had to be practical and the wedding dress is often produced from the fabric for curtains or upholstery, and sometimes of parachute silk. The men often married dressed in military uniforms. Wedding attire wartime today is hard to find in the museum holdings, and photographs are a valuable source of information on the appearance of the bride and groom on their wedding day.
The 1950s – Socialist New Look in Wedding Fashion
White continues to dominate the post-war wedding fashion. On the west the wedding dresses were made of ivory colour silk in a traditional long cut and fuller lower part or they were shorter dresses made of organza, lace and chiffon. In Croatia, considering the fact that the wedding was officially in the registry office and optionally (often secret) in church, the fashion of wearing two different wedding dresses appeared in case you perform two ceremonies. The registry office was the place which gathered all guests and therefore the civil wedding was a place of showing fashion awareness. The church wedding was usually conducted in the presence of only close family and in an unusual time – usually during weekdays in the evening. For the church wedding the dress was more traditional (long floor-length, long-sleeved, without neckline) or solemn day dress or suit. As an accessory a headpiece was worn with a shorter veil.

Headpiece
Croatia
c. 1950
velvet, artificial pearls, glass beads

The 1960s - Simplicity and Elegance
Fashion of the first half of 1960s continued to be characterized by elegant and feminine clothes. Choosing the right fashion accessory was especially important. Following the contemporary fashion events, Croatian fashion magazines recommend wearing a hat, a symbol of traditional femininity, with appropriate gloves and a purse. In Croatia, in the 1960s the wedding ceremony had low importance, and the outfits were often working dresses. Special white dress sewn just for the wedding is rare because it was expected to be worn later on other occasions. According Žuži Jelinek (1920 – 2016), the famous Croatian fashion stylist, a wedding dress resembles a classical suit dress, with simple straight lines, without a blouse, and with a necklace. For the headpiece it was recommended to add a small decoration and a veil over the face.

Wedding outfit
Croatia
1965
silk, machine lace

Wedding dress
Designed by Žuži Jelinek
c. 1961
damask

The 1970s – Pluralism of Fashion Expressions
Two major changes occured in the 1970s. The first is the change in women silhouettes – strict triangular line mini dresses were replaced by slender (elongated) and midi silhouette maxi dresses. The second change is the frequent representation of trousers in women's clothing. Yves Saint Laurent popularized women's suits inspired by the fashion of the 1940s characterized by padded shoulders and also wide, almost floor-lenght pants. 

Dress
Designed by Žuži Jelinek
Zagreb, Croatia
1970
synthetic jersey

Wedding dress
Germany
1971

The 1980s – New Romantics and Popular Culture
Wedding fashion od the 1980s followed daily fashion combining the impact of historical clothing and contemporary trends. Favourite fabrics are white taffeta, satin and lace. The dominant colour is still white. As and in the previous decade, the wedding dress is often a piece of clothing purchased for only one occasion. Some women were still more practical so their wedding outfit resmbled formal daily clothes. In the early 1980s, a typical wedding was romantic and traditionally feminine – long floor-length dresses, with an accentuated, narrow waist, long sleeves and a very long train. Wedding dresses were given an individual mark by using family legacy such as old lace or veil.

Wedding dress
Designed by Rikard Gumzej
Zagreb, Croatia
c. 1984
bourette silk, embroidery

Wedding dress
Designed by Keti Balogh
Zagreb, Croatia
1985
silk damask

From Tradition to Globalisation : Wedding fashion from the 1990s Until Today 
Fashion in the field of ​​wedding fashion of the nineties has brought great innovations - bare shoulders, big chest, and a deep back cut. Popular wedding dresses whose top part is in the form of a corset and decorated with lace. Although white is still the most popular choice for wedding dresses,pale-pink also became a fashionable colour. It is mainly the choice of the bride who did not wish to opt for white, but never had the courage to choose a stronger color. Over the nineties in Croatia "wedding industry" started to develop - exclusive wedding salons opened for selling and renting wedding dresses and related fashion accessories, themed magazines appeared, and also the first agency for wedding organizations. One of the most successful salons in Zagreb for renting and designing wedding dresses is the Vesna Sposa salon founded in 1992. 

Coat
Designed by TWINS (Begović & Štimac)
Zagreb, Croatia
2014
artificial silk, sponge

Many designers do not make bridal collections but do design custom wedding dresses - such as Teo Perić, Robert Sever, Juraj Zigman, Igor Galaš, Atelier Boudoir or Twins. Dresses by Matija Vuica and Robert Pavlina became synonymous with wedding clothes.

Wedding dress
Zagreb, Croatia
2012
synthetic tulle, artificial silk

The first Croatian fashion designers who made a targeted and designed wedding dress collection were Vjeko Franetović and Nikica Ivančević from the fashion studio Envy Room.

Dress
Designed by Igor Galaš
2011
wool, artificial silk


All of Galaš's clothing made of wool can be seen as an organic sculpture or a vision of future clothing.

The dress is completed with a headpiece made by Mario Treščec

Credits: Story

Texts and concept based on a temporary exhitibition “For Better or for Worse – Wedding Clothes From 1865 to Today” (Zagreb, 2015) by
Andrea Klobučar, Author, Head of the Textile Collection

GCI exhibit curation/metadata preparation/import:
Petra Milovac

Special thanks to :

IT support/metadata import:
Zoran Svrtan

MUO Textile Restorers:
Antonina Srša, Iva Čukman

and Photographers:
Srećko Budek, Vedran Benović

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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