August 21, 2017

{20th Anniversary - Excerpt No. 4}


During this 20th anniversary summer of Princess Diana's death, we continue to honor her contribution to the world of wedding celebrations, but this time with a deeper philosophic twist...by sharing an excerpt from my future book, From Princess to Goddess & the Rebirth of Love


{excerpt from}
Chapter One: Princess Mission

Lady Diana Spencer’s glorious emergence from the glass, horse-drawn carriage on her wedding morning in the summer of 1981 set in motion mythological musings: “a fairy-tale bride,” “a heavenly vision,” “the return of the goddess.” Dressed in voluminous yards of custom-dyed ivory silk taffeta, lace and tulle; standing in hand-crafted satin slippers and crowned with old family diamonds, this was beyond any superficial longing of “princess dreams”—although dreams of being a princess certainly fueled our imaginations. 
Diana’s appeal went deeper than our fascination with feminine beauty or brides and weddings, or with royalty and pageantry or mysterious ancient rituals. For many watching the brilliant wedding pomp that day, the experience stirred something deep within. Historically, the vision of a bride often brings a sense of hope and renewal, but for a culture in turmoil, here was a spark that relit what once thought lost. There seemed a light about this young bride. Even if we were unaware of being affected, legends were brewing.

Or did the anti-monarchists and second-wave feminists and other skeptics—not taken in by romance or grandeur or even possible divine intervention—have it right? That this was simply another wan young woman, “shrouded” beyond recognition. From feminist writer Beatrix Campbell: “Her ivory silk wedding dress was a shroud…a crinoline, a meringue…a symbol of sexuality and grandiosity….” She was being led to an altar “propping up the aged patriarch who had got her into all of this” to stand with a man much beyond her years and experience who represented an outdated institution where young women disappeared into desperate disappointment. “Neither her father nor her mother had taken care of her, enlightened her or warned her. They married her off to someone else’s prince….” ~

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[Scroll down for earlier {20th Anniversary} posts excerpted from The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride]


August 10, 2017

{Book Signing in the Mountains!}



Join me the the glorious North Carolina mountains for an extended book signing and showing of my Vintage Collections...one-of-a-kind jewelry and bridal-ey treasures!
All part of the beautiful Cashiers Designer Showhouse in Cashiers, North Carolina from August 12 to August 27.
Click the link for ticket information and other details.... 

August 5, 2017

{Special Edition for Brides!}



Hello! magazine of the UK has a special edition this summer honoring the lasting influence of Princess Diana, including this article: "How Princess Diana's Wedding Influenced Modern Brides"....and reporter Barry Byrne quotes me and my book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: For Better or Worse, How Princess Diana Rescued the Great White Wedding.
Enjoy!



July 13, 2017

{Magick Bridal Slippers}


My article, "Magick Bridal Slippers" about the lineage of shoes in wedding folklore, is published in the Summer issue of SEASON magazine...(page 64)...and I've reprinted it for you below. Enjoy!


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MAGICK BRIDAL SLIPPERS

After the vows, hymns and presentations, the princess bride—in handcrafted silk duchess satin slippers with 542 hand-knotted mother-of-pearl sequins, low fluted heels, decoratively hand-carved suede soles, and a lace- and pearl-trimmed heart at the toe—stepped out into a sun-lit, adoring world.
   
Lady Diana Spencer’s bridal gown designers, Elizabeth and David Emanuel, chose London shoe designer Clive Shilton to create her fairy-tale wedding slippers—completely handmade in the English tradition of royal brides with silks custom dyed to match the dress.


Indeed, shoes and feet have an ancient and mystical lineage in the history of weddings. Shoe historian Cameron Kippen writes: “Mythology and folklore of many cultures link the foot and sex together.” Consequently, since numerous wedding rituals are based on symbols of fertility, shoes appear often! “Throwing shoes after someone setting out on a journey was long thought to bring good fortune, so throwing a shoe at the bridal couple—with procreation such an important part of that union—was taken to wish them a fulfilling life together,” the historian continued.  The later custom of tying old shoes to the bridal carriage or car may be a variation on this onetime good-luck practice.

“In accounts of wedding customs throughout ancient times,” Kippen declares, “it was widely considered lucky to wear something borrowed. A common belief was that the bride would enjoy the same luck as the previous owner if the shoes of another happy bride were worn.” (And the good-luck superstitions extended to the groom by wearing old boots loaned to him for his wedding.)

There’s a heritage of shoe rituals found in cultures around the world: “The ancient Inca Indians of Peru were not considered married until they exchanged sandals. In Northern Italy, the old custom was to have everyone try on the bride’s shoe, just like Cinderella. In Hungary, the groom drank to his bride out of her wedding slipper. In Finland, the married couple was accompanied to the bridal suite by the whole family; the mother would not let the groom go to his bride until he had given her a pair of shoes. In China, the bride tossed her red shoes from the rooftop to ensure happiness for the couple.”

Many of today’s stylish brides put as much attention on the selection of their shoes as they do on finding the perfect gown. Perhaps it’s not simply to satisfy their fashionable palate, but also to follow some divination of ancient rituals promising good fortune—including dreams of being a princess! ~  

[This summer marks the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death. My book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: For Betteror Worse, How Princess Diana Rescued the Great White Wedding, is quoted in various worldwide commemorative publications honoring the princess.]

Princess Diana's wedding slippers preserved at Kensington Palace

July 9, 2017

{A Revolution in Tenderness}


My article about a princess and a pope, "A Revolution in Tenderness," was just published on Huffington Post. Enjoy! 


[The article is an excerpt from my book-in-progress, tentatively titled, From Princess to Goddess & the Rebirth of Love.]

June 30, 2017

{20th Anniversary - Excerpt No. 3}



Continuing our celebration of Princess Diana's contribution to weddings and all the feminine mythology the costumes of that storied ceremony entails! During this memorial summer of the 20th anniversary of her death, I'm sharing excerpts from my book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: For Better or Worse, How Princess Diana Rescued the Great White Wedding.



{excerpt from}
Chapter Three: "A Whiter Shade of Pale"

By the time Diana’s wedding came along, the notion of “virgin white” had not been completely swept away with the sexual revolution. There was still an underpinning of deeply embedded beliefs about the “rules” of wearing subtle shades of white—ivory, cream, beige—inferring one’s virginal status. “Symbolism of color in the bride’s wedding dress seems almost universal,” wrote historian Donald Clay Johnson in 2003. “In Europe and North America, white, symbolizing ‘purity,’ remains the preferred color, a reflection of the pervasive power of English Victorian society to impose its value system throughout many parts of the world.”

Women’s studies scholar Colleen Denney pointed out the sexual ambiguity of Diana’s gown, following in the “fairy-princess ideal” of nineteenth-century royal brides. Denney considered the über-feminine, fluffy, virginal-like gowns of both Princess Alexandra and Princess Diana—two Princesses of Wales marrying almost 120 years apart—representative of “their newly confined circumstances.” The crinoline-style gowns portrayed the “insistence on the continuity of history and tradition, an ever-present cultural memory, and the demands of royal protocol.”

Nonetheless, ruffley-romance was the new again, Vogue-approved fashion of the early 1980s—whether a “throwback” or not. And for these times, the look was fresh, light and feminine—and what Diana Spencer truly wanted to wear. It seems her lack of worldliness and attraction to fairy-tale romance actually worked for her when selecting the designers and her gown. Diana made her choices before she was so wrapped up in an emotional struggle to please everyone—the palace, the public, the media. She was guided by her own intuition as well as the two designers’ vision where silhouette, color, accessories, length of train, and veil style were created to compliment the woman, the setting, perhaps its symbolic place in history, but, definitely, the heart’s desire of the bride.

Since we know now that Diana’s life had a broader arc, was her queenly, Victoria-inspired, femme-femme bridal silhouette a key ingredient in a powerful “modern mythology” being created? Was it all part of some Divine Feminine plan to help usher in a new spirit stirring the cosmos as we approached the end of an old, tired patriarchal millennium?

It may always remain a heavenly secret, but this query beckons. What, indeed, becomes a bridal legend most? An iconic white gown that truly captures her essential self, yet stands out in some fashionably-designed, breathtaking way; where the woman is the star, the gown only her complement, and we are left with a feeling that a goddess just entered the room. ~


June 8, 2017

{20th Anniversary - Excerpt No. 2}


During this 20th anniversary summer of Princess Diana's death, I continue honoring her immense contribution to the world of wedding celebrations and fashion with excerpts from my book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: For Better or Worse, How Princess Diana Rescued the Great White WeddingEnjoy....


{excerpt from}
Chapter Four: "Bringing Back the Mystery"

Princess Diana did not invent our fascination with royalty; stories of nobility and their grand rituals have long captured our attention. However, “royalty acquired the status of stardom when she entered the royal enclosure,” British journalist Beatrix Campbell wrote and, post-1981, weddings once again became society’s favorite pomp and posh circumstance dress-up ritual.


I opened my former bridal store in Atlanta on the wave of Diana’s wedding magic, between the two Windsor royal weddings that decade, and my designers were busy creating “princess gowns” for years: elegant fluffs of ivory silk with big crinoline skirts, full sleeves with delicate bows, corseted bodices, and hand-beaded trims of antique lace. Worn with gossamer tulle veils and—since my customers weren’t yet enamored with tiaras—designer-made headpieces sprinkled with vintage wax orange blossoms and bits of old lace. Something very dreamy and womanly was ignited in the process. 


Bridal veils made a come-back with Diana like they did in the nineteenth century with Prince Charles’ great-great-great grandmother. Although Queen Victoria’s short Honiton lace veil in 1840 was “decorative only,” pinned to her chignon and falling softly over her shoulders, Diana’s was lush and sparkly and, breaking with royal tradition, covered her face for a much fussed-over “virginal” arrival into St. Paul’s cathedral on her father’s arm. Many feminists called it a “shroud.” And for some modern young women of the time just beginning to revel in their independence and sexual freedom, wearing a bridal veil indeed seemed a bit out-of-date, if not out-of-touch. 

Not insensitive to world politics of the 1980s and ‘90s—the years I had my shop—my focus, however, was helping a bride feel just as beautiful inside as she looked outside. I loved the look of the sheer illusion veil like Diana’s that seemed to connect a woman with something deeply feminine and quietly mysterious. Worn over the face, it helped block out the noisy, distracting world, and move her attention within—similar to how a slow, deep breathy inhale and exhale return us to our true self, more in touch with our heart.~


May 29, 2017

{20th Anniversary}


This summer marks the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana's death. My book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: For Better or Worse, How Princess Diana Rescued the Great White Wedding, is quoted in various worldwide commemorative publications honoring the princess.

For the next few months, I will share book excerpts that focus on her contributions to the world of weddings as well as the essence of inner and outer beauty; later I'll also share excerpts from my in-progress book, tentatively titled, From Princess to Goddess & the Rebirth of Love.

Enjoy the first excerpt below....


{excerpt from}
Chapter Two: “A World of Celebrity” 

The first worldwide media spectacular…with all the pomp and circumstance at England’s matchless command,” declared journalist Susie Pearson when looking back in 1991 at Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer’s wedding ten years before. “It was, perhaps, the defining event of the eighties.” The brilliant affair also brought ceremonial weddings back in style almost overnight, resurrecting the bridal industry from the social upheavals of the previous two decades. After this royal watershed event, getting married became fashionable again and the world was ready! It put a new era of fancy wedding hoopla into motion: elaborate designer gowns; a return of the status wedding celebration; staged over-the-top productions and “celebrity” weddings as media spectacles—sometimes coordinated by professional event planners who became bigger celebrities than many of their clients.

Almost everything about the 1980s became a symbol of excess, “a decade in which style so often trumped substance,” continued Pearson. The appeal of the Prince and Princess of Wales’ grand ceremony ignited Martha Stewart’s brand of attention-down-to-the-last-detail “decorative wedding”—her wedding book in 1987 launched an empire! What followed was the wedding imploded as a “consumer rite,” a trend that, explained scholar Vicki Howard in her book Brides, Inc., had begun in America at the middle of the twentieth century. ~

[excerpt from The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: For Better or Worse, How Princess Diana Rescued the Great White Wedding...pages 13-14.]

April 20, 2017

{Social Graces at Biltmore}


 Thanks to everyone who attended my special event Social Graces at Biltmore during their "Designed for Drama: Fashion from the Classics" costume exhibition. From enjoying a Jane Austen Social of tea and scones with talks featuring the designers who 'make magic' with period costume dramas to tours of the various costume exhibits around the Estate, a fine time was had by all! 
Costumes from "The Golden Bowl" in the Music Room of Biltmore House
Costumes from "The House of Mirth" in Mrs Vanderbilt's Bedroom in Biltmore House

Cornelia with 'Social Graces' guests


April 3, 2017

{Something Most Royal}


My article, "Something Most Royal," is in the new spring issue of Season magazine! Plus I've reprinted it below with lovely images.... 
Enjoy!




Something Most Royal
Those of us who love royal weddings and queenly costume dramas have had a most regal “film feast” of late! “The Crown”—a rich, lavish Netflix production chronicling the life of Queen Elizabeth II—begins with her wedding in 1947; and “Victoria,” the British series on PBS, portrays the young queen’s journey beginning when she succeeded to the throne in 1837, soon followed by her legendary wedding.

I have written about both Queens, sharing stories of their wedding ceremonies, gowns and the lasting impact of their bridal legacy. But here I tell about a reluctant royal bride of the 1920s—someone who played an important role in connecting the lives of Victoria and Elizabeth, as well as influencing fashion for both real and fictional brides we know and love!

Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, daughter of the 14th Earl of Strathmore, didn’t want a life in the royal spotlight, yet after long being wooed by the Duke of York, love won out. They married in 1923, neither presuming “Bertie” would become king; nevertheless, history changed course, and royal duty called. 
This beloved future queen chose something very fashion forward for her wedding: a slim, drop-waist silhouette with ornate pearl-beaded, medieval-inspired metallic trim. However, it was the sleek, column shape that influenced Cornelia Vanderbilt’s couture designers’ for her 1924 wedding (she married the Honorable John F. Amherst Cecil from England) and also inspired Downton Abbey costumier Caroline McCall’s design for Lady Mary—for that highly anticipated wedding with Matthew Crawley set in the spring of 1920!

Lady Elizabeth’s long, heirloom lace veil was also an inspiration for future brides. Queen Mary loaned her daughter-in-law-to-be a family veil of “old point de Flandres which had aged to a soft ivory colour,” according to British historian Ann Monsarrat, “and the silk crêpe moiré for the wedding dress was dyed to tone with it.” Lady Elizabeth was “the last major royal bride to wear flowers rather than diamonds” (a trend established by Queen Victoria when she wore a crown of creamy orange blossoms), yet Monsarrat called Elizabeth’s headdress a “typically hideous 1920s arrangement” and even “monstrously unbecoming”! The veil, although of exquisite handmade lace, was “clamped down over her head to the eyebrows and firmly held there by a garotte—in this case, a narrow band of myrtle leaves with two white roses and sprigs of orange blossom above each ear.”

Our other two 1920s brides fared much better however! Cornelia Vanderbilt wore her maternal grandmother’s lace veil and orange blossom headpiece in a similar fashion as the petite Lady Elizabeth, but with her statuesque figure, Cornelia carried it off with aplomb. And Downton’s designer went with more glam for Lady Mary, foregoing orange blossoms altogether, she selected a graceful diamond tiara fit for a real princess! ~

March 13, 2017

{A Veil of Distinction} Redux



Continuing our celebration of the ongoing Vanderbilt/Cecil family wedding exhibition at the Biltmore Legacy Museum in Asheville, NC—which opened in February of last year—I'll re-share another article I wrote featuring an antique lace bridal veil on display with celebrity connections. ("A Veil of Distinction" was first published in the 2016 spring issue of Season magazine.) Enjoy!

A Veil of Distinction
Wedding veils hold an especially distinctive yet intimate place in a family’s collective memory. Even more than the wedding gown, the family bridal veil has, historically, been the treasure most often passed down and shared with daughters and granddaughters, nieces and cousins.

That was the case with a certain heirloom veil with a most captivating provenance. First worn by Margaret Merritt as an Edwardian bride when she married James Thomas Lee of New York City in 1903, her cathedral-length, rose point lace veil was also worn by her daughters Marion Lee Ryan, Janet Lee Bouvier and Winifred Lee D’Olier. But this veil developed a particular mystique when her granddaughter Jacqueline Bouvier wore it, along with Margaret’s delicate wreath of wax orange blossoms, for her marriage to Senator John F. Kennedy in 1953.

I became intrigued by this veil’s lineage when I learned it was to go on a first-ever display early this year as part of the wedding costume exhibitions on Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. The veil’s connection with the Vanderbilt family is through Jackie Kennedy’s cousin, Mary Lee Ryan—“Mimi” wore it when she married George Vanderbilt’s grandson, William Amherst Cecil, in 1957.

Jackie’s only daughter Caroline Kennedy didn’t wear the Lee family veil, but both Mimi’s daughter and daughter-in-law wore it with their 1980’s Diana-era “princess gowns.” I find this is part of the beauty and pleasure of a bridal veil: as fashions change, it can be adapted to wear in various stylish ways; and even as women and their roles change, because of its strong feminine impulse, the bridal veil always carries a precious tradition.

Lace was immensely fashionable for Victorian and Edwardian ladies and, indeed, de rigueur for brides during these gilded decades. Following the creation of “rose point” lace in Brussels in the mid-19th century—a type of point de gaze needle lace so named because of its lyrical rose design, often with raised petals—this romantic pattern became a favorite of brides. Therefore when well-to-do American women made their grand transatlantic voyages to Europe on the most majestic luxury liner of the day (it was simply the thing to do!), high on their must-do list was to bring back a lace veil from Belgium—all with dreams of a wedding in mind. (Is that how the lovely rose point veil worn by the Lee family brides—and then the Cecils of North Carolina—began its notable pedigree?)

Later when lace was not as popular and travel to Europe was aboard airplanes instead of ships, bringing home a lace wedding veil stayed dear to the hearts of many American women. Perhaps there is one stored away in your family’s “treasure chest”? ~

February 22, 2017

{"Victoria" on PBS}


Did you enjoy watching the period drama "Victoria" on PBS? Of course the story of the young queen included her 1840 wedding to Prince Albert which continues to influence brides and wedding celebrations today! If you've read my book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: For Better or Worse, How Princess Diana Rescued the Great White Wedding, then you've read rich background stories and understand the intrigues of "the great white wedding"....!  

In my latest speaking engagement presentation, "Victoria & Elizabeth: Recreating Crowns & Gowns" (inspired by PBS' "Victoria" as well as the fabulous series on Netflix, "The Crown," featuring the life of Queen Elizabeth), I share design details about the real gowns plus behind-the-scenes stories of how the costume designers recreated those royal wedding and coronation gowns. 

You can read The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride for stories about the "real" wedding gowns, but here's a little blurb from my talk about the recreation of Queen Victoria's wedding gown by costume designer Rosalind Ebbutt. (My PowerPoint presentation is also full of beautiful images!):


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{excerpt from}
"Victoria & Elizabeth: Recreating Crowns & Gowns"

“Victoria’s” costume designer Rosalind Ebbutt, shared about reproducing the historic gown: "We were able to source a lot of things, silk that was very similar to the one Victoria wore, lace made by English lacemakers in Honiton. [The real] Victoria was very keen that everything would be from her country and made by an English dressmaker….,” the costume designer shared.

"The wedding dress was the one thing we knew how it would look so [recreating] it was a longer, drawn out process. Sometimes [for various costumes] we had to get things done in a week or so, but [for the wedding costumes], we had several weeks which was great," Rosalind explained.

In an interview with Hello! Magazine, she shared that “working with actress Jenna Coleman was a delight – and the highlight of series one was spending weeks creating and perfecting the all-important wedding dress…. “funnily enough” she added about filming the wedding scenes, “it was a moving day for us….."

Costume designer Rosalind Ebbutt and actress Jenna Coleman at fitting for "Victoria"

February 4, 2017

{Reimagining a Legend - Redux!}


Cornelia Vanderbilt Cecil, at home, Biltmore House 1924
Photo courtesy of The Biltmore Company
In honor of the ongoing exhibit at the Biltmore Legacy Museum in Asheville, NC—featuring Vanderbilt family wedding treasuresI'm once again sharing the link to my article "Reimagining a Legend" published last year on Huffington Post (when the exhibit first opened.)
The article offers background on how a design team at Cosprop, Ltd. London recreated Biltmore heiress Cornelia Vanderbilt's 1924 couture wedding gown and accessoriesthe centerpiece of the museum's exhibit on Biltmore Estate. 
Vanderbilt family wedding exhibition at Biltmore Legacy Museum

[See details of my special event in April, 'Social Graces' at Biltmore during their "Designed for Drama: Fashion from the Classics" costume exhibition!]