April 6, 2022

Downton Abbey Returns...with a Wedding!

The movies love weddings and Downton Abbey fans had several family ceremonies (and wonderful costumes) to enjoy during the run of their popular television series. 

We love weddings too! One of my most popular presentations as a guest speaker has been "Vintage Inspiration: The Brides of Downton Abbey"...sharing the inspiration of the show's costume designers in creating Lady Mary's, Lady Edith's, Lady Rose's and all the circa 1920s wedding gowns we saw through the years. (And I also shared a bit of costume history to tie it all together!)

Now with the upcoming new Downton Abbey movie (to be released in the UK later this month and in the US on May 20), we'll have another family wedding! 
Wedding scene from Downton Abbey: A New Era
Tom Branson (the widowed husband of the Crawley's youngest daughter, Sybil) marries Lucy Smith (who he met in the 2019 film and is the heir of Lady Bagshaw, Robert Crawley's cousin) and by the look of the fashions, it's a late 1920s wedding!
Wedding scene from Downton Abbey: A New Era

Enjoy getting into that elegant 1920s vibe and ready for Downton Abbey: A New Era!

March 1, 2022

Celebrating Women's History...

...and honoring women who honor women!

Meghan Markle has long supported women's rights...even when she was a little girl and before she became the Duchess of Sussex. When she married long-time activist Prince Harry, she then had a dedicated partner in support of empowering women. Now their Archewell Foundation extends her reach and influence in improving the lives of women--and therefore children--worldwide. 

This support gets magnified during Women's History Month in March each year as they expand contributions with grants, recognitions--and sometimes a cake! (This one baked in her own kitchen for volunteers at the World Central Kitchen.)

"Part of Archewell Foundation's core commitment is to build strong, compassionate, and equitable communities across the world. Although these grants have been announced as we recognize Women's History Month, the work they represent is relevant and vital every day of the year," the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said. (People Magazine) Putting "compassion into action" is a lifetime commitment for both Meghan and Harry.

Salute to Freedom gala 2021

October 25, 2021

Diana Spencer Mountbatten-Windsor

Another film featuring a slice of the life of Diana, Princess of Wales, premieres on November 5th.  Spencer, starring Kristen Stewart, is called a “psychological drama that follows Diana’s decision to end her marriage to Prince Charles and leave the British royal family.” (The “decision” was a bit more complicated than that for all involved, especially Diana and Charles’ sovereign, Queen Elizabeth.) Nonetheless, using this occasion, I’ll post a short excerpt from my book in progress, The Spiritual Mission of a Princess….


Chapter 3: Social Changes (excerpt)

           “When the royal family enfolded Diana, they thought they had got a rather dim girl from the landowning Norfolk aristocracy—not exactly the stuff of revolution. They could not have known that she would be transformed into an international superstar who would make their lives hell.” This from an article, “Diana’s Britain,” by the editors at Newsweek magazine published the week after the princess’ funeral. Some feminists of the time were also fooled by “the mouse that roared.” British journalist Beatrix Campbell wondered how more conservative Britain could become when this pretty, inexperienced girl from old landed gentry married into the stale confines of royalty. Calling her wedding gown “a shroud,” she feared Diana would disappear within a dusty patriarchal construct. But Campbell and others began to see it differently.

Diana emerged into the world’s consciousness during the second year of Margaret Thatcher’s landmark run as Prime Minister and Great Britain, entrenched in a recession, was in turmoil with the country’s traditional industries in crisis and race riots destroying neighborhoods in the cities. “Into this unrelieved gloom the royal wedding injected a welcome splash of color and glamour,” the Newsweek article continued. “For that reason alone, Diana always carried a fund of good will with her. Yet at the time, few appreciated the central significance of the new princess; she was young and unformed, with enormous potential for growth.” And indeed, from that summer in 1981, Diana’s growth into a striking, outspoken woman paralleled Britain’s own growth into the modern era. Diana may have spent her childhood in the country, but as a young woman she needed the bustle and stimulation of the city and like much of the country’s youth, Diana loved “London’s glitzy rebellious values.” And for better or worse, she brought “an American style of emotionalism,” as feminist writer Naomi Wolf expressed, “to the rigid skin of British formality.”  

The Labor Party picked up this youthful call to modernize with forty-three-year-old Tony Blair’s campaign for prime minister in 1997. Since his “agenda echoed Diana’s,” according to Catherine Mayer’s Time magazine article, “How Diana Transformed Britain,” Diana met in secret with him and his election team in support of Blair’s “mandate to build a more inclusive, caring Britain.”  By the time of her death, only months after Blair’s election, she seemed to embody “how new Britons wanted their country to be.” After centuries of practiced reserve and mystery, it took the Royal Family a little longer to realize how much the country was changing even though they had clues inside their own family which had been moving, as Newsweek reported, “from archaic rule to modern dysfunctionality.” Then the shock of the princess’ death left them unprepared for the rising new era of more open public self-expression—the unbuttoning of England’s stiff-upper-lip sensibility. “The People’s Princess,” Mayer wrote, summing up Diana’s impact, “had unlocked hearts, reordered values, presided at the triumph of emotional intelligence over cold intellect, of compassion over tradition.”

September 21, 2021

25 Years Later...

Photograph by Denis Reggie

"How many dresses can we say get better and better?"

{Below is a reprint of Rachel Burchfield's anniversary article in Vanity Fair, remembering this lovely, intimate wedding 25 years later and the bride's extraordinary fashion-forward statement...all captured in Denis Reggie's remarkable photograph, above. At the time, the designers for my bridal art-to-wear shop in Atlanta--who had been designing many "princess gowns" since Diana Spencer's wedding in 1981--had begun to create simple, 1930s-inspired gowns for modern-savvy brides. So we were delighted to see Carolyn's wedding dress leading this trend with such feminine style and glamour!}

August 31, 2021

Downton Abbey: A New Era


The new Downton Abbey movie is not out until March 2022...and I hear, 'natch, there's going to be a wedding! But the traveling exhibit, Downton Abbey: The Exhibition, is landing in Atlanta this fall! Opening September 25 at Perimeter Pointe for a limited run...and, best of all, displaying over 50 costumes! 

July 1, 2021

{Education of the Heart} Book Excerpt

July 1, 2021. Princes William and Harry unveiling memorial stature of their mother,
Diana, Princess of Wales, in the Kensington Palace Gardens.

Excerpt from 

Education of the Heart 

final chapter

The Spiritual Mission of a Princess

{my still-in-the-works book}

With the enlightening gift of hindsight, hazy fragments of life can fall into place: “Oh, that’s what he was trying to tell us.” “Oh, that was the real message of her life.” Millions of words have been written about Diana Spencer Mountbatten-Windsor’s life and death. Some focused on the superficial and sentimental, the fashionably theatrical storyboard of her life; others focused on glorifying the virtuous humanitarian, even romanticizing her ‘saintly’ nature. (So it goes with a beautiful and tragic charismatic figure.) It’s a more mindful version of the latter that interested me. A flawed yet deeply empathetic princess, under the brightest spotlight on the planet, stands up to the short-sighted patriarchal powers-that-be, puts heart over head, kindness over duty, love over fear. That’s not only courageous, but in a cynical and discordant world, it’s downright subversive! And looking back, this was Diana’s spiritual mission, a mission that ties directly to this present moment as women’s voices are leading the conversation. This is the reason many of us are here during this tumultuous consciousness shift: to anchor the receptive, mystical, powerful, primal energies of the feminine and the reflective, grounded, gentle warrior energies of the masculine—to anchor old soul values, compassionate impulses, and the Earth’s promise of paradise.  

“When he turned 18,” reported royal correspondent Katie Nicholl, “Harry vowed to continue Diana’s charity work, making a public pledge ‘to carry on the things that she didn’t quite finish.’” When Prince Harry turned 36, the same age as his mother when she died, he had some of the same concerns that she had about royal life—its advantages and its limitations. “This is a man who said he wanted to continue his mother’s work,” added biographer Omid Scobie. “We’ve long mourned Diana’s place on the humanitarian landscape, and here we have Harry, who embodies her values and is willing to dedicate his life to them.” Inspired by Diana’s love and experience, and his own deep commitment and empathetic nature, Harry put his wife and son first. He chose his heart.

When we make that kind of choice, a new world opens up, our path becomes clearer, our wings lighter, and the once improbable becomes destined. We find the courage to love, then love again; to let go, then let go again; to let go of the past that no longer serves our evolution in being human. “Human evolution” is the game at hand, claims spiritual visionary Gary Zukav, and it’s also what’s at stake. In this decisive time of the transformation of human consciousness, it’s no longer viable to postpone the sometimes-painful interior work—whether it’s our rage or jealousy or grief—it’s time to face it. And Prince Harry has established a platform with a worldwide audience to courageously lead the way. It’s a hero’s journey, a heroine’s quest, an intimate rite of passage we’re all to take. It’s a journey of a lifetime and it’s the journey each of us chose.  

We may be in a time where it feels like everything precious is at risk. But it’s important to remember that in “between times” like these our perceptions change, things may not be what they seem, miracles happen. This is the era of reconciliation. As we explore this feminine heartbeat pulsing through the world—getting stronger, more powerful, more focused—we reach out to the masculine energies to join in, to make a quantum leap together in creating this new era of harmony. So it’s fitting that we revisit Diana’s life-gift that broke open this “head to heart” revolution as a reminder that love is the only way in and the only way out. ~