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.... 

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! ~