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 ├╝ber-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.~