Brides from Australia and beyond have worn the spectacular creations crafted by dressmaker Melinda O’Donoghue.

Now, some of her life’s work has gone on display at BAMM in a joint exhibition with local artist Jo White.

Eighty couture wedding gowns, most made from Mrs O’Donoghue’s Gurley farmhouse, are featured in the showcase which also includes Ms White’s series of heart-warming pieces in the exhibition titled Unveiled: Love, lace and longing.

Mrs O’Donoghue guided guests through the collection in an intimate gathering earlier this month in BAMM’s Art After Dark series. Another event is planned for November.

She recalled the stories behind some of her creations and the brides who wore them.

Speaking of the exhibition, she said she was thrilled that it had been popular.

“It’s a bit overwhelming to see them all,” she said of the dresses.

“I take it seriously that I’ve got the responsibility of someone’s most important dress.”Mrs O’Donoghue grew up in the Riverina and had an interest in sewing as a child.

“I always sewed as a child and I love weddings,” she recalled of her choice to make a career out of dressmaking.

“I love the romance of weddings.”

She studied fashion design at the Canberra Institute of Technology in 1993 and later moved to Sydney where she started her career working with designers.

After meeting and then marrying Des O’Donoghue, they moved to north west NSW and lived in Bellata.

They later moved to Gurley where they have lived for 20 years and Mrs O’Donoghue continues to make her magic happen.

Such is her reputation that her business comes purely from word-of-mouth and she never needs to advertise.

“You don’t do this for the money,” she recalled of dressmaking.

“You do it for the love of the craft.”

Mrs O’Donoghue’s own dress, from 1997, is featured as part of the display. The beautiful piece features intricate Swarovski crystals on the bodice.

During the guided tour through the display, Mrs O’Donoghue recalled having to use dental floss to string the crystals on her wedding dress as they would have just cut through the thread.

One of the dresses showcased in the exhibition is an intricate gown belonging to Kirsty Tomlinson of Moree.

The exquisite dress features 120-year-old lace.

“It was really special,” she recalled of Mrs Tomlinson’s gown.

“Not everyone can say they have 120-year-old lace on their wedding dress.”

BAMM director Vivien Clyne paid tribute to the work of acting director Kate Tuart in organising the display while she was on maternity leave.

The concept for the exhibition came from Mrs Clyne’s own experience in having a gown created by Mrs O’Donoghue.

“She showed me the dresses she had made,” Mrs Clyne recalled of her experience

When Mrs Clyne approached Mrs O’Donoghue about an exhibition she initially said no.

But Mrs O’Donoghue came around to the idea and was glad to see it as a way of supporting the gallery. It is the first fashion exhibition held at the gallery.

“There is a lot of community interest in this,” said Mrs Clyne.

“A lot of people might remember going to some of these weddings.”

She said the display had been well supported so far and that the gallery had noticed plenty of tourists visiting.

In the lead-up to the exhibition, Mrs O’Donoghue asked her previous brides through Instagram if they would be willing to lend their dresses for the display.

She was inundated with support.

“The brides are all so happy to be involved,” said Mrs Clyne.

Complimenting the couture gowns on display is artwork by acclaimed artist Jo White.

While a departure from her nostalgic rural and sporting scenes, this latest offering is further testament to Ms White’s range and talent, beautifully capturing the essence of romance in a series of heart-warming pieces.

“I work with a lot of old photos as a starting point for my works, and what I had noticed was a recurring theme of love and lovers – it was interesting how many photos were of lovers embracing, just in everyday activities and not necessarily as part of a special event or occasion,” she said.

“There was a lovely innocence and sincerity to them which I thought would make for some beautiful works, so I started with a study of the kiss.

“Shortly after this BAMM approached me to be involved in the joint exhibition with Melinda O’Donoghue and her dresses, so the timing was perfect.”

Unveiled: Love, lace and longing, held in a collaboration between Bank Art Museum Moree and Moree Gallery, is on display at BAMM until Saturday, November 14.
Entry costs $5 for adults and under 18s can visit free of charge.

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