Seven Fascinating Stories to Discover at I Do! Wedding Stories from Queensland

Few things change our life more than getting married. It binds us legally or emotionally to a person, a family, a community and a shared future.

Currently on display at Queensland Museum are more than 40 ensembles from the museum’s collection together with loans and commissioned artwork that explore the significant rolefashion plays in revealing the diverse, rich, heartbreaking and hopeful stories behind wedding garments.

If you are yet to visit I Do! Wedding Stories from Queensland, here are seven featured stories to get you walking down the aisle to saying ‘I Do’ to a visit.

One dress, three brides and the Liverpool Football Club

A dress that lived through three generations of family weddings. Henrietta Sarah Tinsley was the first family member to wear the dress when she married William Houlding in London, 1893. William was the son of John Houlding, owner of Houlding Brewery and founder of the Liverpool Football Club. 54 years later Henrietta’s granddaughter wore the dress at her wedding in 1947. This began a family tradition of wearing the dress to honour a family member. On the occasion of Lavinia’s wedding, she wore the dress to honour her grandmother. Lavinia’s daughter continued the tribute by incorporating offcuts from the dress into her own wedding gown.

Left image: Henrietta Houlding 1893 | Right image: Lavinia Napier 1947 | Images courtesy of Audrey Napier

What happened to women when they got married? Ask former Lord Mayor of Brisbane Sallyanne Atkinson AO

In the 1960s, there were certain expectations of women once they married, including giving up their careers to stay at home and raise a family. Sallyanne Atkinson AO, a trailblazer in her own right, defied those norms and continued to work as a journalist after marrying. She entered politics during the 1970s, becoming the first female Lord Mayor of Brisbane from 1985 to 1991, and was the first female on several major company boards, often being told ‘that is no job for a woman’. Check out Sallyanne’s wedding dress and wedding photos in the exhibition.

Wedding dress worn by Sallyanne Atkinson AO | photographer: Peter Waddington

The story of an 86 year old Qun gua Chinese ceremonial wedding dress

Worn by Nellie Sun Jue Yow in 1934, the ceremonial dress, which translates to ‘long skirt and top coat’ in English, reflects Nellie’s Chinese heritage and a traditional belief that a bride who wears a qun gua expresses luck, prosperity, abundance and future happiness. According to traditional Chinese custom, a qun gua must only be worn once in a lifetime by a bride on her wedding day. You will find Nellie’s ensemble on display with its striking embroidered peonies and silver metal thread.

William and Nellie Kee 1943 | Image courtesy of Nellie Kee

2020 and love in uncertain times

2020 will be remembered as a turning point in human history. In Australia, the year began with bushfires causing unprecedented destruction of millions of hectares of the Australian landscape, soon followed by the appearance of COVID-19 – a virus that has reshaped public spaces and human relationships around the world. Hear from couples who amid uncertainty and fear, found new ways to celebrate age-old rituals.

Sam and Alex’s wedding 4 April 2020 | photographer: Dan Vonhoff

Pendants and keys  from ring-pulls in Ban Vinai refugee camp

In Hmong tradition, silver jewellery symbolised wealth and prosperity and was used both as wealth accumulation and for gift exchange. Because silver was not available in refugee camps, people began to use aluminium food tins and melted down pots and pans which were in plentiful supply. This aluminium necklace was made in Ban Vinai refugee camp. Come and see these necklaces and their remarkable detail up close in the exhibition. 

Photographer: Peter Waddington

Marriage and identity

Getting married often calls us to spend time contemplating who we really are. For Torres Strait Islander man Walter Waia, getting married was a big step in life, and it was a very special time that allowed him to reflect on his identity as an Ait Koedal (saltwater crocodile clan) of Saibai Island. Walter created this dhibal headressin Canberra and completed it on Saibai Island for use during his engagement ceremony on the island in 1985 and later used at his wedding ceremony in 1986. You can see Walter’s dhibal in the exhibition and read an excerpt from a poem he wrote.

Donated by Walter Waia | 2020 Queensland Museum collection

A wedding dress would cost you… $83 in the 1950s

In 1957, Iris Smart (previously Jacobson) married Errol Smart in Rockhampton 1957. Featured in the exhibition is Iris’s quintessential 1950s fitted bodice and bolero dress, along with the written quote supplied by dress maker United Fashions Pty Ltd trading under the label ‘Marsha Mayne’. The quote for the fully custom and made-to-measure dress was the equivalent of around 83 Australian dollars. A moderate comparison to the cost of a custom wedding dress today. Come and see the dress and copy of the full quote in the exhibition.

Donated by Ian Smart | 2016 Queensland Museum collection

From the simple to the stunning, I Do! is an exhibition exclusively curated by Queensland Museum featuring more than 40 wedding ensembles plus photographs, letters and accessories spanning 180 years of stories. The exhibition is on now until 21 Feb 2021. Tickets: $10 Adults | $8 Concession. Group bookings are available. Book now