December 26, 2014

{A Nurturing First Bite}


Dear Bride-to-Be
In my upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride, I write about the familiar yet rather mysterious ingredients of “the great white wedding.” (Queen Victoria launched its first era and her great-great-great-grandson’s shimmering bride, Princess Diana, revived it in the most memorable of ways nearly a hundred and fifty years later.)

If the centerpiece of this white wedding tradition filled with special costumes and music and flowers became the bride’s gown, then the centerpiece of its wedding reception became the “great white cake.” The first morsels eaten by the just-wed bride and groom were, if not considered sacred, at least symbolic of being nurtured for a full, rich life together. Historically this first bite was during the wedding ceremony itself, like in ancient Roman customs when the “cake” was a simple wheat biscuit. Then over centuries the tasting ritual moved to the reception, as author Barbara Tober described, during Elizabethan weddings when the “cake” was a stack of sweet buns.

However you plan your wedding—and whatever “ingredients” you use for a romantic yet meaningful celebration—be sure your “first bite” is ‘nurturingly’ filled with love and tolerance and good humor and lots of sweet somethings!

Love. Listen. Let go.
….love from Cornelia

ps: Photograph courtesy of Martha Stewart Weddings. (Also, I thought youd enjoy MSW collection of best wedding cakes of 2014.)

pps: The End of the Fair-Tale Bride {Volume One} For Better or Worse, How Princess Diana Rescued the Great White Wedding due out in January 2015!

December 13, 2014

{A Treat For You!}


Dear Bride-to-Be
Here's a treat for you! My article, "Attending the Bride," has just been published in Season magazine. It's also an excerpt from my upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride. I thought you'd like to see it...click here...and enjoy

Love. Listen. Let go.
...with love from Cornelia

November 30, 2014

{Honoring Elegant & Kind Gentlemen}


Oscar de la Renta & Amal Alamuddin 
Vogue October 2014

Dear Bride-to-Be
Whether you are an old-fashioned girl who loves tradition or part of the jammin and Instagrammin set looking for something a bit subversive to wear for your wedding; or whether this is your first trip to the altar or a woman whos been there before; or whether you are just beginning a career or an accomplished business woman of some renown. Wherever you are in your life, selecting your bridal gown is a moment of some consideration.   

I wanted to honor a mana designer of elegant, feminine and stylishly romantic wedding dresseswho never wavered in considering the wishes of the woman who would wear his gown. (No matter what type of bride she was!) Oscar de la Renta, who died this fall, was a true gentleman of elegance and grace, humor and intelligence, and a lover of beautiful things with a commitment to bring out the joy in lifehis and that of everyone around him.

André Leon Talley called Oscar a master of the grand wedding gown and his last such gown was for the beautiful Amal Alamuddin, now wife of George Clooney. The custom gown was a luscious womanly confection of ivory tulle appliquéd with Chantilly lace. Her final fitting was covered by Vogue where the designer shared about a woman's relationship with her wedding gown: “It’s the most important dress in the life of a woman. Any girl from any walk of life dreams of that special dress, and I try to make that dream a reality for her.”

Oscar wasnt saying that women didnt have other important occasions in their life for special clotheslike what to wear for her swearing-in as President of the United States or etcetera! Just that this particular gown is imbued with some mystical, mythological and deeply ingrained mojo! And Oscar understood that and knew how to tap into that magic so a woman felt it on her wedding day.
Oscar de la Renta with Elizabeth Cordry Shaffer, 2013
Heres intending that no matter what you wear for your wedding—a delicious designer gown or some delightful find from a vintage shopthat you feel dreamy and loved and beautiful inside and out...and are treated with the kind and tender touch of such a gentleman throughout your life.

Love. Listen. Let go.
...with love from Cornelia

ps: My upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride {Volume One} For Better or Worse, How Princess Diana Rescued the Great White Wedding, is full of stories about designer dresses and a womans deep heart desires! 

November 14, 2014

{The Joy of White}


Dear Bride-to-Be
Are you wearing white for your wedding?  Volumes have been written about the mystery and allure of the white wedding dress—as well as the symbolic notions of its pure color. Ancient Egyptians, considering the color sacred, draped their brides in gossamer layers of accordion-pleated white linen. The ancient Greeks and Romans, with their ever-present gods and goddesses, assigned symbolic meaning to everything; the color white represented “joy” and was worn for most festive occasions, including weddings.

Through the centuries various colors went in and out of fashion for brides—in fact, I tell many of their stories in my upcoming book. But a number of European princesses from wealthy kingdoms felt it their right to dress as opulently as possible so were costumed in gold and silver fabrics—sometimes encrusted with diamonds and other precious gemstones

So of course in 1840 when the young Queen Victoria wore “plain” white satin and lace instead of the glittering lavishness of her predecessors, she set a new standard—and the rest is bridal history! (In contrast her gown perhaps seemed “simple,” but both the silk satin and lace were lush, exquisitely handmade, and of great value.)

I’d love to venture inside the head of this much-in-love, girl-of-a-queen bride to know if her desire for an all-white wedding was truly from an idea of “purity” and humbleness or just her uncluttered fashion sense. Or perhaps there was some essence of mythological romance that captured the heart of a young woman deeply in love. Indeed, the only color Victoria wore was near her heart: the large blue sapphire brooch her beloved Albert gave her as wedding present.

Love. Listen. Let go.
…with love from Cornelia


ps: I’ll keep you posted about the release of my new book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride {Volume One} For Better or Worse, How Princess Diana Rescued the Great White Wedding

October 30, 2014

{The Bride's Journey}


Dear Bride-to-Be: 
Your wedding day journey is full of expectations, excitement, maybe a little fear, a few do I look just right?thoughts, perhaps some meditative moments and, hopefully, a heart full of love! I thought you'd enjoy reading this excerpt from my upcoming book about the young Lady Diana Spencer's journey to begin her wedding day in front of millions of people. 

Finally, leaving from her future grandmother-in-law’s home where she spent her last night as a commoner, Diana’s world-stage future began. Two of the Queen’s prized bay mares, Kestrel and Lady Penelope, pulled the glass coach that had carried all British royal brides to their weddings since it was built 70 years before, but now it was traveling along a route that was overflowing— beyond anyone’s imagination—with throngs of happily cheering fans. Inside the tiny “pumpkin,” the first English girl to become Princess of Wales in 300 years sat beside her beloved father, Earl Spencer.

Whether a garden path or a horse-drawn coach takes you to your wedding, remember to, in the wise words of Thich Nhat Hanh: smile, breathe and go slowly. And enjoy your journey of the heart! 

Love. Listen. Let go.
...with love from Cornelia

[The excerpt above is from my upcoming new book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: {Volume One} For Better or Worse, How Princess Diana Rescued the Great White Wedding. I'll let you know as soon as it's available for sale!]

October 13, 2014

{Attending the Bride}

Bridesmaids of Victoria, the Princess Royal, circa 1858

Dear Bride-to-Be
The way brides choose their bridesmaids changes just like the fashion for selecting bouquet styles or gown necklines. Brides invite friends and family members to be part of their wedding party for all sorts of reasons—and it’s not always about being “attended to.” Sometimes it’s to “out do” the last wedding in town or copy-cat a celebrity ceremony in the news; or perhaps some brides choose attendants out of a sense of obligation or just whatever it takes to feel like a princess!

Princess Elizabeth and her attendants, circa 1947
British historian Dulcie Ashdown described Queen Victoria’s 1840 wedding: “Behind her came a dozen bridesmaids, the daughters of peers dressed in white with white-rose wreaths and carrying her long train.” However, some attendants were heard to comment that if the train was longer they could be more graceful and not have to “bunch up” as they did! Princess Elizabeth, later Queen Elizabeth II, had eight bridesmaids in attendance for her 1947 wedding, including her sister Margaret, but it was her page-boys sporting kilts in the Royal tartan who carried her long, heavily beaded silk tulle court train.

Kate Middleton with her sister attending, circa 2011
Over sixty years later, when a poised Kate Middleton wed the Queen’s grandson William, the future Duchess was blessed to have a close relationship with her sister who, as the only adult bridesmaid, was the one to carry the bride’s heavy train as well as attend her sister in other ways. Dressed for the wedding in cream silk by the bride's couturier, Pippa had also been available to help with tasks during the busy months of wedding planning, be good company and offer womanly encouragement—something every bride needs, royal or otherwise!

Love. Listen. Let go.
...with love from Cornelia

[This is an excerpt from my upcoming book The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: {Volume One} For Better or Worse, How Princess Diana Rescued the Great White Wedding. Stay tuned for publishing news!]

September 26, 2014

{Gracious Destinations}



Dear Bride-to-Be: 
You always want your wedding to be in a beautiful setting: whether a large cathedral or cozy chapel; an ornate temple or a lush blue-water beach; a backyard garden or an elegant historical mansion!


There are many lovely and grand old homes around the world (some are even castles) that have been restored into "destination" wedding venues....places that seem to call forth the beauty and magic of ancient rituals. I just visited one in Mobile, Alabama: the elegant Bragg-Mitchell Mansion in all its antebellum glory, nestled among graceful live oaks and palmettos. (I was there to give my Downton Abbey costume talk and have a book signing.)

Having an intimate "sense of place" for their wedding is important to many couples...a sense that they feel "at home" yet transported to something moving, even spiritual. So wherever you choose to gather for wedding vows and deep connections with family and friendsclose to home or farawaychoose from your heart and that intimacy will guide your strong sense of place all the way "home."

Love. Listen. Let go.
...with love from Cornelia

Bragg-Mitchell Mansion dining table set for Morning Coffee
during my "Downton Abbey" presentation. 
[Images courtesy of Bragg-Mitchell Mansion]

September 10, 2014

{Be Exquisitely Self-Expressed}


Dear Bride-to-Be:
There's no such thing as too many musings about beautiful vintage handkerchiefs! So here's a "ps" to a recent post about my love for hankies....

I met Cynthia Brumback, author of the wondrous new book The Art of the Monogram, at a book signing in Cashiers, North Carolina last month. Of course there's more to monograms than just using on handkerchiefs and Cynthia's book covers it all exquisitely: from sterling silver and home linens to royal jewels and silk lingerie; from their etched historical beginnings to today's high-fashion runways; from grand display to intimately personal. (This book should be on your most wished-for "gift list.")

Planning a wedding, being a bride, beginning a marriage are all compelling rites-of-passage and I can't think of anything that marks their passage more memorably than to have some sort of beautifully scripted monogram to commemorate the occasion. Whether it's a vintage linen handkerchief embroidered with your initial to carry on your wedding day; or for your reception, a pair of old silver toasting goblets engraved with your new monogram, perfect for holding hand-picked wildflowers later by your bedside; or a custom-designed monogram with "his & her" initials for your wedding cake (just like William and Kate!), a design you use forever on favorite things at home.

In the spirit of honoring relationship (with yourself, with another, with your heritage), something monogramed is the perfect bit of "self-expressed" beauty to add to your life every day!

Love. Listen. Let go.
...with love from Cornelia

[Photograph: The Art of the Monogram]

August 29, 2014

{Linking Up With the Past!}


Dear Bride-to-Be:
I have a treat for you! Here's a link to my latest article in SEASON magazine's autumn issue ("A Whiter Shade of Pale" -- all about the mystique of the white wedding gown through history) ... which just happens to be an excerpt from my upcoming new book: The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride {Volume One} For Better or Worse, How Princess Diana Rescued the Great White Wedding.

Plus, the link will also take you to a report I wrote about my visit in the spring to Winterthur Museum where I gave a presentation ("Vintage Inspiration: The Brides of Downton Abbey") during their costume exhibition featuring our favorite British period drama. (If you land on the cover page, then scroll to pages 88-89 and you're there!) Enjoy all the elegant "vintage vibes"....

Love. Listen. Let go.
....with love from Cornelia

August 18, 2014

{Handkerchief Inspired Cakes & Things}


Dear Bride-to-Be:
I've made no secret that I love handkerchiefs -- especially embroidered white vintage ones and those with a beautifully scrolled monogram, even better! My former bridal art-to-wear shop was famous for a fetching selection of them; they're my favorite gift for a bride; one of my Pinterest boards is dedicated to them; and I write about handkerchiefs in my books and articles often! (There is even a three-part series featuring the benefits and magic of hankies on this blog.)

So of course I was delighted to see this from Martha Stewart: "Wedding Cakes Inspired by Heirloom Handkerchiefs." And they are divinely charming, 'natch! See my favorites from Martha's array of delicious-looking cakes on Pinterest, along with other hanky delights sure to inspire your heart.



Love. Listen. Let go.
...with love from Cornelia

[Top image courtesy of Augusta Auctions; bottom image courtesy of Martha Stewart Weddings]

July 24, 2014

{Family & National Treasures}


Dear Bride-to-Be:
Historically, wedding gowns had a special place in a family’s remembrances, and those bridal costumes designed to be worn only once were “often carefully preserved as a family heirloom, sometimes passed down from generation to generation” along with anecdotal stories and tenderly held mementoes.

But royal wedding dresses—and many connected to royalty—and their precious accessories are donated to a museum or historical collection for safekeeping with an occasional display to the public. Even months before her glittering wedding in the spring of 1956, Grace Kelly announced that she would give her antique lace and silk gown to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in her hometown. And within the year, she and her prince visited the exhibition in a flurry of press coverage.

Concerned her pale blue wedding ensemble by couturier Mainbocher would not be accepted by a British museum after scandalously marrying a former king in 1937, Wallis Warfield Simpson donated it to the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. And there it resides to this day.

The Duchess of Cambridge’s regal couture gown went on temporary display at Buckingham Palace soon after her wedding in the spring of 2011. Following a private visit by Kate and her grandmother-in-law (the Queen!) over a half million people visited the exhibit of the dress that “reflected the vision of a new generation of the British monarchy.”

In 1997 I saw a special exhibition, “In Royal Fashion,” at the Museum of London featuring the wedding gowns of Princess Charlotte of Wales (an elaborate “cloth-of-silver” circa 1816) and Queen Victoria (sans the fragile Honiton lace frills and border.)  They are only two of several royal wedding dresses now in the care of the skilled conservation and heritage charity housed at Kensington Palace that take care of these national treasures.

Princess Diana’s shimmering pouf of a wedding gown went on display in 1998, with other bridal accoutrements, in a gallery at Althorp, the Spencer family ancestral home. The exhibition has also been on a grand tour of the world for over a decade (ending this summer) with millions peering in at the enchantment of it all!

Whatever you are wearing for your wedding or whatever you decide to do with your gown afterwards, wear it like the goddess you are…allow yourself to feel your true beauty inside and out, enjoying your own “royal” time in the spotlight.
 
Love. Listen. Let go.
...with love from Cornelia
 
ps: This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: {Volume One} For Better or Worse, How Princess Diana Rescued the Great White Wedding. Stay tuned for publication announcements later in the year!

 

July 9, 2014

{Dressed In White, Or Not}


Dear Bride-to-Be:
There are so many choices of wedding gowns today now that a plethora of designers are in the business. Once white became the traditional color (beginning almost two hundred years ago with British royalty, but really only becoming “the” color in the middle of last centurythe post-war 50s really loved “the great white wedding”), white gowns became steeped in emotions and dreams and lots of “meaning.”

Wearing white may have become the “tradition,” but there have always been “fashion rebels” (some who wore purple or red gowns; or hot pants and see-through tops) and members of royalty (who at one time wore brocades of silver) and societal “rules” that encouraged some brides—usually to please their mothers—to avoid wearing a shade of “off-white” (if one was hung-up on “virginal” implications!)
 
Now in our Internet-equalizer world there is a near universal popularity of the gown that turns a bride into a “vision in white” and evokes some kind of “princess” tingling down to her toes. Has the color white finally lost any cultural and emotional symbolism and is now just a “pretty preference”?
 
I find that wearing white has always had a ceremonial and regal quality...taking on a kind of goddess-like radiance. (No wonder women love wearing white a bride.) So whatever you wear for your wedding, add your own “meaning” and just be sure that it includes some “I feel gorgeous” tingling down to your toes!

Love. Listen. Let go.
...with love from Cornelia

[Photograph: Bryan Gardner for Martha Stewart]

June 30, 2014

{Aromatherapy-Wise Bride}


Dear Bride-to-Be:
Your time of being a bride should be a dreamy time filled with love! However, if you're doing most of the wedding planning and organizing yourself, it can get a bit stressful, yes? So how can you have the best of all worlds: Stay “full of love, ease and creativity” while planning a wedding from your heart....?

Here are bits of aromatherapy wisdom to get your creative juices flowing:

•     “Lightly spritz wedding invitations and love letters with tea rose or jasmine scents…it helps send love around the world.”

•     “Put a few drops of essential oil on an unscented dryer sheet with your bed linens…lavender pillowcases call sweet dreams close….love follows the scent of rose. Choose either fragrance for a dreamy rest.”

•     “Add a couple of drops of relaxing lavender essential oil onto a practical (washable) white linen handkerchief to carry on your wedding day. Then as you dab at tears (his or yours), the scent brings sweet calm.

Be an “aromatherapy-wise” bride and enjoy your fragrantly-creative-planning-time and a love-scented wedding day!

Love. Listen. Let go.
...with love from Cornelia

[Photograph: Ian Grant]

June 23, 2014

Old-Fashioned {Redux}

[This is a reprint of my article, "Being Old-Fashioned, Downton Abbey Style," from the summer issue of SEASON magazine. Scroll to page 93 or enjoy text below!]






.............................................................................................................
Being Old-Fashioned, Downton Abbey Style
One of my favorite bridal historians, the late British writer Ann Monsarrat, talked about how old “innocent superstitions…just for fun” became wedding “traditions” in Victorian times. Although most wedding customs have ancient roots back to the days of arranged marriages (like “the superstition that the bride and groom should not meet on their wedding day until they do so at the altar”), it was the sentimental Victorians who made them part of the “rules” of wedding etiquette. And even if a tad old-fashioned, some traditions stayed around while others disappeared in the regimented practicality guiding many weddings today.

It reminds me of the episode of Downton Abbey in season three when Martha Levinson, Cora’s very avant garde American mother played by Shirley Maclaine, arrives for Lady Mary’s wedding. At dinner the night before the ceremony, Violet, the other grandmother (Maggie Smith’s witty character, the proper Dowager Countess) tells Martha that Matthew won’t be dining with them since it’s “bad luck” for the groom to see the bride. Martha teases about following such old-fashioned notions: “It’s 1920 for heaven’s sake!”

However, old-fashioned or not, keeping some traditions just brings out the sweetness in us. Remember the Downton Abbey scene later that night when Matthew slips into the Abbey to apologize to Mary and—with her slightly opened bedroom door between them—asks for a reconciliation kiss. After a pause, Mary softens and smiles: “Only if you close your eyes…it’s bad luck to see me before the wedding.” (He does, she does, then takes a peek, and they seem even more in love when they meet at the altar the next morning!)

Now I can appreciate the benefits of being practical as much as the next fellow; and I understand that the current practice of taking photographs of all the wedding party before the ceremony is indeed “practical.” But don’t you think it spoils some of the romantic mystery?

Ann Monsarrat told this charming story around the 1893 wedding of a future king and queen: 

…when Princess May of Teck and the Duke of York caught sight of each other from opposite ends of one of the long, long corridors of Buckingham Palace on their marriage morning, they took it as a happy sign. They were a constrained couple, always writing to explain how much they loved each other and apologising that they could not actually say so; both were warmed by the brief encounter. The Duke, according to Queen Mary’s official biographer ‘swept her a low and courtly bow. This gesture she never forgot.’

Certain old-fashioned notions may be worth saving—especially if they inspire such courtliness and tender memories. And in our “let it all hang out” modern world, they may prove absolutely essential in keeping some of our “mystery” intact (and a woman’s mystery never goes out of fashion and sometimes romance needs a bit of old-fashioned nudging.) ~
 

June 11, 2014

{Open Your Heart}


Dear Bride-to-Be:
With all the commercial hype, canned traditions, and tantalizing nonsense out there, it’s an extra daunting time for whomever is planning a wedding—whether it’s the bride, her mother or both! So several years ago, I created “Open Your Heart” CDs for these busy, task-oriented women. Not only as a way to support their ease and well-being, but the short, guided relaxations were also designed to help their choices come from the heart. (I’ve been to so many weddings where the character, soul and intimacy have been squeezed out of the wedding day because of the stress to “get it right” instead of relaxing and simply “sharing your love.”) 
 
So I introduced my CDs —a version for brides and another for all women—at one of those big, splashy bridal extravaganzas. During the afternoon event in the hotel’s grand ballroom, my team and I greeted the rush of visitors—hundreds of brides with their wedding entourage in tow. And for those brides, mothers and members of the wedding party who paused at our booth, I shared the benefits of slowing down during their wedding planning time for a few moments of relaxation and ease. (You’ll “feel better” and “look more beautiful”—and with some of the brides I threw in “have better sex” to really get their attention!) Some of the brides-to-be looked rather bewildered when I mentioned “relaxation,” reacting with words like: “I’m just too busy/tense/crazed to slow down and relax!” Hmmmmm.

As many thousands of brides as I had worked with over the years in my former shop by the time I did this event, I figured I’d be met with some resistance to the notion “that being calm and not reactive” equaled  happier relationships. (So the nature of the reactions I received certainly didn’t bode well for peaceful marriages and family life ahead.) Nevertheless, it wasn’t surprising that just as many of the mothers of future brides and grooms spoke up with: “I’m the one who needs this CD!”

I think we can all use support in slowing down, relaxing, and bringing ease to our bodies, mind and spirit no matter the tasks we’ve taken on. As the wise Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh prompts us: “Breathe, smile and go slowly.” (And I say, a more beautiful bride is a more relaxed, in-her-heart bride!)

Find a way to ease your noisy mind...remember, deeeeeeep easy breaths. Create your own ritual of stillness—a meditative womanly ritual for deep relaxation—one that would be a gift of heart-opening ease (a gift to you, to him, to all!) Even if it’s only five minutes of quiet solitude a day: in the early morning before your busy day begins or as an afternoon break; after a bath to continue your relaxation or before bed to support deep rest. Find your quiet hub; find your inner stillness. Open your heart.

Love. Listen. Let go.
...with love from Cornelia

[Photographs: J Nichols Photography]

May 30, 2014

{Vintage Shimmer}

"Costumes of Downton Abbey" Exhibition at Winterthur

Dear Bride-to-Be:
I recently had the pleasure of being guest speaker at the marvelous Winterthur Museum in Delaware during their ongoing "Costumes of Downton Abbey" exhibition. Lady Edith's cream silk wedding dress was a favorite on display....and I included details in my talk about how costume designer Caroline McCall created the elegant vintage design, starting with an antique silk and crystal beaded train.

Caroline said she looked at lots of old photographs and magazines for inspiration for the design of Edith's dress....one gown was that of Mary, the Princess Royal, for her wedding in 1922 at Westminster Abbey. Like many princesses of the time, the column-style, drop-waist gown was silver in color.  I thought you'd enjoy this from Christopher Warwick, author of Two Centuries of Royal Weddings, citing a "shimmering" description from a guest at the 20s wedding:

Princess Mary's gown was silver lamé, veiled with marquisette embroidered in English roses worked with thousands of tiny diamonds and seed pearls in a faint lattice-work design....girdled with a silver cord studded with triple rows of pearls....and from the waist also hung a trail of orange blossom with silver stems.
The train was composed of specially woven white and silver duchess satin, draped with Honiton lace embroidered in baroque pearls, diamonds and silver bullion.

Now your bridal gown may not be such a glistening, silvery confection....nor vintage-inspired....nor one designed just for you (although a princess you may be!) But whatever you wear for your wedding day, include a shimmering open-heart ready to share with all....and all the days thereafter!

Love. Listen. Let go.
...with love from Cornelia
 
Cornelia with Maggie Lidz, Winterthur Estate Historian,
at the entrance of the "Costumes of Downton Abbey" exhibition

ps:  The "Costumes of Downton Abbey" exhibition will be at Winterthur through January 4, 2015. It is not a traveling exhibit....in addition to the costumes, it has videos and images from the show that won't be seen elsewhere....so get yourself there! You don't want to miss it!


May 14, 2014

{The Language of Flowers}


Dear Bride-to-Be:
Brides and the language of flowers have a romantic and mystical history. Through the ages, romantics assigned meanings to flowers and herbs according to their innate nature—and a language was created!

Bridal folklore tells of maidens entwining creamy white, aromatic orange blossoms into a bridal wreath for their hair, to ensure fertility; or carrying a bunch of sweet smelling white lilacs, representing innocence; or tucking fragrant herbs into their bouquets, rosemary for remembrance and dill, believed to provoke lust. (And both herbs were often eaten for their supposed powers!)

Queen Victoria carried a nosegay of snowdrops, representing friendship (they were her beloved Albert’s favorite flower); and Princess Grace, after much thought, selected lilies-of-the-valley for her wedding bouquet, one of the many delicate flowers meaning purity.

Former Brides magazine editor-in-chief, Barbara Tober, tells us that the sentimental Victorians of the 19th century had a custom of arranging a bouquet of flowers and herbs “to spell out the groom’s name (baby’s breath, irises, limonium, and lilies for B-I-L-L.)’’ The little book, Kate Greenaway’s Language of Flowers, is a reproduction of a Victorian’s floral inspiration that will help you create your own romantic language in flowers!

However, don’t wait for your wedding day. Be inspired, with or without flowers, to speak a language of love and tenderness right this very moment!

Love. Listen. Let go.
...with love from Cornelia

[Bridal photograph: Matt Hakola]

April 30, 2014

{All Dressed in Vintage White}


Dear Bride-to-Be:
As a costume historian, I often write articles and give talks on a particular fashion from the past and tell stories not only about how it expressed a woman’s style, but also her personal sense of creativity—and how it influenced wedding fashion of that era.

Like the über feminine white “lingerie dresses” popular in the late 1890s into the 19-teens which, ironically, “deftly impersonated a Victorian lady’s ‘unmentionables’” as author Kristina Seleshanko explained.* These dresses were filmy white confections—usually sheer cotton lawn or batiste, even tissue silk—deliciously trimmed with inserts of lace, floral embroidery, and tiny pin-tucks and worn as special-occasion dresses for warm weather soirees and ceremonies (even for outings at the beach!)
Fashionable with laced-up corsets underneath for a hourglass or S-curve silhouette and lushly up-swept ‘Gibson Girl’ hairstyles, high-society ladies wore fancy varieties of “lingerie dresses” to Ascot, spring boat races, or just to promenade in the park, topped with large elaborate hats. But these “little white dresses” were very democratic; with the popularity of the sewing machine, most all women (young and old) were able to wear some version of the favored frock. They also became de rigueur for tea-dances, graduations and other rites-of-passage ceremonies—even as a wedding dress since they were often an Edwardian middle-class girl’s “best dress.”

A bride of the time would add some “bridal-ey” accessories for her wedding day like a wreath of wax orange blossoms as well as tiny bouquets of them pinned here and there on her dress. She would also wear a gossamer tulle or lace veil—perhaps one that had been her mother’s—and of course she’d carry a bouquet of fresh flowers and herbs.


When I had my bridal art-to-wear store in Atlanta in the 1980s and 90s, my designers restored many of these old “lingerie dresses” that I’d found searching antique markets and fairs. Sometimes they were for brides, sometimes for her attendants, but always for someone who had a special eye for such vintage beauty. It was as though you could feel the intimacy of the intricate needlework detail…like you became a part of their feminine legacy.

What are you wearing for your wedding? It may be a brand-new, gorgeous designer creation; or a special gown borrowed from a friend or found at a gently-worn shop; or perhaps it’s indeed a rare vintage dress from another era with its own unique story to tell of romance and mystery! Whatever you’re wearing, remember to add your personal touch that includes a bit of old-fashioned spirit and a heart full of love.

Love. Listen. Let go.
…with love from Cornelia

*ps: Read more about “lingerie dresses” on Kristina’s delightful Vintage Connection website.
 
[Top photo: Courtesy of Historic Mobile Preservation Society]

April 16, 2014

{Being Old-Fashioned, Downton Abbey Style}


Dear Bride-to-Be:
One of my favorite bridal historians, British writer Ann Monsarrat, talked about how old “innocent superstitions...just for fun” became wedding “traditions” in Victorian times. Although most wedding customs have ancient roots back to the days of arranged marriages (like “the superstition that the bride and groom should not meet on their wedding day until they do so at the altar”), it was the sentimental Victorians who made them part of the “rules” of wedding etiquette. And even if a tad old-fashioned, some traditions stayed around while others disappeared in the regimented practicality guiding many weddings today.

It reminds me of the episode of Downton Abbey in season three when Martha Levinson, Cora’s very avant garde American mother played by Shirley Maclaine, arrives for Lady Mary’s wedding. At dinner the night before the ceremony, Violet, the other grandmother (Maggie Smith’s witty character, the proper Dowager Countess) tells Martha that Matthew won’t be dining with them since it’s “bad luck” for the groom to see the bride. Martha teases them about following such old-fashioned notions: “It’s 1920 for heaven’s sake!”

However, old-fashioned or not, keeping some traditions just brings out the sweetness in us! Remember the Downton Abbey scene later that night when Matthew slips into the Abbey to apologize to Mary and—with her slightly opened bedroom door between them—asks for a reconciliation kiss. After a pause, Mary softens and smiles: “Only if you close your eyes…it’s bad luck to see me before the wedding.” (He does, she doesn’t, and they seem even more in love when they meet at the altar the next morning!)

Now I can appreciate the benefits of being practical as much as the next fellow; and I understand that the current practice of taking photographs of all the wedding party before the ceremony is indeed “practical.” But don’t you think it spoils some of the romantic mystery?

Ann Monsarrat told this charming “groom not seeing the bride” story around the 1893 wedding of a future king and queen: 

…when Princess May of Teck and the Duke of York caught sight of each other from opposite ends of one of the long, long corridors of Buckingham Palace on their marriage morning, they took it as a happy sign. They were a constrained couple, always writing to explain how much they loved each other and apologising that they could not actually say so; both were warmed by the brief encounter. The Duke, according to Queen Mary’s official biographer ‘swept her a low and courtly bow. This gesture she never forgot.’
Certain old-fashioned notions may be worth saving—especially if they inspire such courtliness and tender memories. And in our “let it all hang out” modern world, they may prove absolutely essential in keeping some of our “mystery” intact—and a woman’s mystery never goes out of fashion and sometimes romance needs a bit of old-fashioned nudging.

Love. Listen. Let go.
...with love from Cornelia    

ps: I can’t mention Downton Abbey without reminding you that I’m speaking at the glorious Winterthur Museum next month during their Downton Abbey costume exhibition. Come join me...I think you’ll love my topic: “Vintage Inspiration: The Brides of Downton Abbey."