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Rita Kozak, holding her parents' framed photograph and invitation, is collecting materials from area residents for a wedding dress and accessory exhibit for the River Falls Public Library. The show will be a display of regional history and culture, said Jera Terreng, the library's events coordinator. Judy Wiff photo

River Falls library seeks area wedding dresses with a story

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arts and entertainment River Falls,Wisconsin 54022 http://www.riverfallsjournal.com/sites/default/files/styles/square_300/public/fieldimages/14/0613/weddingshow.jpg?itok=PV_YlWDQ
River Falls Journal
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River Falls library seeks area wedding dresses with a story
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

It's a given that every bride is beautiful, but over the decades wedding costumes and customs have varied.

Jera Terreng and Rita Kozak suspect that many area residents may have, stored in a back closet somewhere, dresses or suits that exemplify an era or come with a unique back story. Please bring them out, they ask.

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"We're looking for dresses that have a story," said Kozak, who will be curating a wedding dress and accessory display at the River Falls Public Library's lower level gallery.

"In the gallery we try to have a nice mix of art and history," said Terreng, the library's events and gallery coordinator. She said many of the exhibits are "hard-core history," and added, "It's really fun to show people a cut of local history and culture."

She said she wants to balance the library's exhibit year with a bit of regional history. And, Terreng said, the wedding exhibit "seemed like a lovely thing to do around the holidays."

The show will open Dec. 17 and run through Jan. 26, 2012, but Kozak wants to know soon what's stored in area closets.

"We're looking for fairly unique dresses or (women's) suits that speak of the period when a person was married," said Kozak.

Despite the common belief that every bride's dress is white and long, through the ages that wasn't always true, said Kozak.

Terreng said she and Kozak are looking for wedding costumes that were the norm for particular periods but also want to include outfits that are "flashy, edgy or on the wilder side."

While many of today's wedding costumes are intended for wear only on the big day, that wasn't always the case, said Kozak.

In earlier eras, she said, "It was a meaningful piece of clothing to people."

She knows of a woman who wore a suit on her wedding day, wore the same suit for her 50th wedding anniversary and was buried in it.

"I think that we're looking for the story behind (the suit or gown)," said Kozak.

Her mother's dress, for example, was made of satin, although that fabric was hard to obtain when she was married in 1944, during World War II.

At this point, Kozak has only two dresses for the show.

She is also looking for memorabilia that is different, unique photographs and good stories. Kozak has suggested they have an "awkward wedding" corner and include amusing photos or memorabilia.

"Bring your garters," agreed Terreng. "Bring them."

Large framed photographs will be a welcomed part of the show.

Terreng recalled visiting a woman in a nursing home and being shown her wedding photo.

"For all the world it looked like several couples at a business function," said Terreng. "There was nothing in that picture that indicated it was a wedding."

As the idea for the library display developed, Terreng turned to Kozak for help. The women's daughters have been in dance classes together, and Kozak made costumes for the girls.

"It just seemed like a good idea to have another set of hands on this one," said Terreng. "The more people we pull out of hiding, the better."

Although she's works as an environmental consultant and most of her professional experience has been in teaching and developing instructional materials for land use planning, Kozak has a strong background in costuming.

"I just have always sewed," she said. "I have a particular interest in vintage clothing."

Kozak has done the costuming for several productions at the Phipps Center for the Arts in Hudson and sewed costumes for Bharatanatyam (south Indian classical dance) and belly dancers.

She said the costuming she did for The Phipps ranged from classical 1940s dress to outfits for actors in a play about male cross-dressers.

She described her range in costuming from "very period-oriented to just totally out-there sort of stuff."

As for the overall theme for the wedding show, that's a work in progress and will depend in part upon the response organizers get from area residents.

"We haven't exactly landed on a title yet," said Terreng.

Persons interested in including their family's wedding dresses or photos in the display are invited to call Kozak at (715) 425-8554.

An opening reception will be held 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17.

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Judy Wiff
Judy Wiff has been regional editor for RiverTown’s Wisconsin newspapers since 1996. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and sociology from UW-River Falls. She has worked as a reporter for several weekly newspapers in Wisconsin.
(715) 426-1049
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