Douglas County residents’ grandmothers and great-grandmothers in the white lace dresses of decades past peer out of black and white photos as you enter the Douglas County Museum’s new wedding exhibit. Inside, on display, are eight dresses — six white, one indigo-dyed and one bright red kimono. The kimono is a traditional wedding dress from Shobu, Japan, a gift from the Shindo family in Roseburg’s sister city.
The exhibit, “Something Old...Douglas County Gets Married,” opens Saturday and will continue through June.
While the cascades of white satin, silk and lace are what we think of as traditional American gowns, Museum Educator Virginia McPhee, who arranged the exhibit, said she learned that tradition dates to the Victorian Era. It was adopted after Queen Victoria wore a white dress at her own wedding in 1840.
Before that, wedding dresses were just the best dresses the bride owned and came in all colors, like the indigo-dyed piece in the exhibit.
“I’m kind of sad the colors went away,” McPhee said. “It added some variety.”
One of the gowns, a silk and lace dress from the turn of the century, is displayed in a case for its protection. The silk is beginning to disintegrate due to a chemical that was used on silk fabrics back then.
Perhaps the most spectacular dress is an 1890s dress that features large sections of handmade lace.
“Now we have machine-made lace. It’s just not the same,” McPhee said.
The most unusual thing in the exhibit is a photograph of a dress made from turkey feathers, worn by a bride who was from Roseburg but had a wedding ceremony elsewhere.
McPhee said the exhibit features about half the wedding dresses in the museum’s collection. She said she mentioned to a friend that the museum had a lot of dresses and wasn’t sure what to do with them. The friend suggested a wedding exhibit.
“I thought it was a great idea, and here we are,” McPhee said.
The museum is at 123 Museum Drive, across from the Douglas County Fairgrounds off Exit 123 south of Roseburg. It’s open Tuesdays through Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and closed Sundays and Mondays. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for seniors 55 and over, $5 for veterans and $2 for children 5 to 17 years old.