September 13, 2017

{A Woman's Radiance} Redux!


To celebrate the return of the romantic Outlander series on television this month, I'm repeating a popular post about what it took to make the bride's 18th century gown to literally "glow" in candlelight...as well as a few insights about a woman's glow at any time! Enjoy....

For this 18th century wedding set in the Scottish Highlands, the costume designer wanted Claire—the bride and heroine of the Outlander series—to literally glow. “I wanted a dress that would be incredible in candlelight,” Terry Dresbach shared. This wedding—and forthcoming marriage and relationship of Claire Beauchamp Randall and Jamie Fraser—was the foundation of the immensely popular Outlander books and subsequent television series, therefore the direction from the show’s creator (and Terry’s husband) was that “this moment needed to be a fairy tale.”

“In the 18th century, metallic fabrics were made with actual metal woven into the fabrics,” explained Terry in Variety magazine. “When you put [the original costumes] in a room filled with candles, they just glow. They’re quite remarkable.” By incorporating delicate shavings of iridescent mica as well as an old, time-consuming embroidery technique using metal strands, Terry was able to be true to the spirit of the era while also creating something stunning and shimmering for Clairereluctant wedding ceremony.

Of course as a fashion historian and wedding folklorist, I loved reading about the creative process of designing this gown. But I also write about a bride’s rite-of-passage, her personal inner journey, and her deep desire to be as beautiful as possible on her wedding day! In my 30 or so years working with brides, I find this desire for beauty a universal expression of the feminine spirit, tapping into a womans true goddess nature, her radiance.
Reading about the Outlander’s costume designer’s wish for Claire and her gown to glow, I thought of Regena Thomashauer, best-selling author and founder of the School of Womanly Arts in New York City. The heart of Regena’s work encourages women to find and express their true desires, their self-love, their inner and outer goddess, their glow. “Glow creates beauty in women of all ages, all body types, all backgrounds.” And when you glow, you not only want to dress to show it off, but you just naturally attract and inspire what’s beautiful in others.

Is that the reason women are so attracted to the fairy-tale quality of “being a bride”? The masculine power grid of modern culture doesn’t really encourage the rich, deep, loving expression of feminine values, so a woman’s wedding becomes a rather rare opportunity for her to glow; a time for full-tilt-boogie radiance! But I would encourage all women, every dayno matter where you are in your lifeto open your heart, to shine your inner light, to choose radiance! ~

Claire and Jamie's candlelit wedding in Outlander
(All images from costume designer Terry Dresbach's blog)


September 6, 2017

{20th Anniversary - Excerpt No. 5}



To complete our 20th anniversary Princess Diana memorial, I'll share another book excerpt noting a moment from her wedding day...perhaps, from our perceptive as we look back, it was a moment that looked into the future, and illuminated her spiritual mission. (From my upcoming book, From Princess to Goddess & the Rebirth of Love...the second book in The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride series.)


{continuing excerpt from}
Chapter One: Princess Mission

Did this young woman, who became a princess on her wedding day and after a long, winding road, the ‘queen of hearts’ upon her death, ignite a pathway for a consciousness shift of the heart? Was this a signal for the return of a nurturing goddess spirit intended to nudge along the occurring paradigm shift where we see a flowering of feminine strength and influence? 

During a life fluctuating between tedious soap opera and compassionate healing, how could we imagine then that Diana would be showing a way to, in the words of spiritual thinker Xavier Le Pinon, “educate the heart” on how to be tender, open and immaculately loving? In all the pomp and glamour and personal drama, it was easy to overlook her spiritual mission.

There was an exquisite bridal moment that summer-lit wedding morning on the red-carpeted steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral, captured in a memorable zoom-lens photograph, where Diana—veiled in what seemed to be the ancient mystery of womanhood—paused to look back. Perhaps it was simply to check the fluffing of her impossibly long train, stretching down the staircase; but then you see her eyes, piercing through the veil as if with an inner knowing, glancing toward some distant past in support of encouraging her forward. Was Diana standing in for all future brides at a time when they, too, pause at their nuptial doorway to embody, no longer a woman’s loss of power and self-expression, but the female essence of beauty, strength, forgiveness and love? ~

[Scroll down for earlier {20th Anniversary} posts excerpted from

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 (the second book in The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride series.)


{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….” ~


...................................................................

[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!


...............................
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! ~