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More than a wedding dress: Exhibit looks at the meaning of marriage in our modern lives

May 02,2018
The “Dear My Wedding Dress” exhibition held at Seoul Museum, central Seoul, features various dresses, such as a dress woven with metal by designer Geum Key-sook, far left, and a retrospective of designer Andre Kim, above. [YOON SO-YEON]
While some people are happily married to their other half, others regret the decision they made to live with another person “until death do us part.” Some women dream of having a big, glamorous wedding with their soulmate, while others feel repulsed by the restraints of married life that begin the moment they walk down the aisle. For some, marriage is a luxury they can’t afford or attain because of legal restrictions.

So rather than just putting on a display of beautiful dresses and fancy wedding ceremonies, the Seoul Museum in central Seoul decided to create an exhibition that highlights the many perspectives people have when it comes to the institution of marriage. The “Dear My Wedding Dress” exhibition, which is open until Sept. 16, sheds light on the many ways people celebrate or deride two people coming together for life. From what an ideal wedding and married life looks like to why some people have become reluctant to get married, the exhibition is a chance to think about the many voices that echo both inside and outside of wedding halls around the country.

Although the title of the exhibition, “Wedding Dress,” may give off the impression of a wedding expo filled with perfect dresses on display, the exhibition consists of not only dresses, but also paintings, illustrations, photographs and installations that shed light on different aspects of marriage. The exhibition is divided into two parts: First, “The Stories of 12 Brides” in which each of the 12 sections revolve around a fictional bride and her story, and second, “Show Must Go On,” a retrospective of Korea’s first male fashion designer, Andre Kim (1935-2010).

Each part of “The Stories of 12 Brides” tells a fictional anecdote of characters from famous movies, books and dramas, and displays a dress for the women and artworks that express their stories through different mediums.

One part tells the story of Yeo-reum, the main character of the 2014 KBS drama “Discovery of Love” and how she found her true self while looking deep inside her heart during her breakup with her boyfriend. To go with the theme, an installation of two circular mirrors, one of which is covered in cloth, titled “Moon” by artist Kim Ki-soo, symbolizes the act of looking into oneself.

Artist Kim Byung-kwan’s “Old Star #14” (2018) are paintings of Wonder Woman, but in a dark and gloomy ambience, standing next to a mannequin laying on the floor as if in despair. With the story of Yu-jin, a character from author Choi Eun-young’s short story “Your Peace” (2017), visitors question whether women are really happy conforming to traditions, as visualized by the fallen mannequin, as if women have become knocked over by the social norms that oppress them.

In another section, the photo series “On My Mark!” (2017) by artist Chang Ji-a consists of eight photographs, each featuring the naked body of a female model with a letter of the title “On My Mark” marked on them. The models are women who would like to get married but cannot do so either because they are part of the LGBT community or because of the social stigma against them for being laborers from Southeast Asia.

Lighter approaches are also on display, such as photos of beautiful brides and their fantasies shot by Kristina Makeeva as well as dresses woven out of metal by designer Geum Key-sook.

“Many women change themselves for the perfect wedding and to fit into the perfect dresses,” said Ryuh Im-sang, curator of the museum. “But nobody wears their dresses once the wedding is over, just as how our dreams often fade once we achieve them. Through this exhibition, we wanted to look at the lives and dreams of different women and their different ideas surrounding weddings.”

The second part of the exhibition is the story of a designer who lived his dreams and expressed them through his dresses as the first male designer in the Korean fashion history. Andre Kim used to finish each of his fashion shows with a wedding dress and 13 of those dresses are on view.

Videos of Kim being interviewed before his death give visitors a look into his creative process and the actual tools that he used when designing and making his clothes at his atelier are also on display.

“Just as [Andre Kim] pursued his dreams, we hope that people keep living to achieve their dreams. Designer Kim was a monumental figure in Korean fashion history, but Korean people seem to only remember impressions of the designer instead of his passion and dreams,” said Ryuh.

BY YOON SO-YEON [yoon.soyeon@joongang.co.kr]
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