December 13, 2017

{Titanic Glamour}

My article, "Titanic Glamour," is featured in the winter issue of SEASON magazine (scroll to page 48.) I've reprinted it below, adding images shared by fashion historian Randy Bryan Bigham, author of Lucile - Her Life By Design.


Bridal sketch by Lucile
Courtesy: Randy Bryan Bigham
Whenever you read about the RMS Titanic—the fabled “floating palace” that sank on its maiden voyage in April of 1912—gilded glamour and high fashion are always part of the intrigue. During its “dressing hour,” when first-class passengers dressed for dinner following white-tie protocol, many ‘Lucile’ gowns—gingerly unpacked by ladies’ maids from grand steamer trunks—were worn by patrons unaware the celebrated designer, sailing incognito, was aboard. British couturiere Lucile, Lady Duff Gordon, traveling to expand her business in America, was on the Titanic with her husband, Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon, and her assistant, “Franks.” (All three were saved when disaster struck, but there was a whiff of scandal surrounding the circumstances!)  

Lily Elsie in Lucile, Ltd. wedding gown, circa 1911
Courtesy: Randy Bryan Bigham
Lucile was internationally famous for her femme-femme evening clothes and bridalwear made of gossamer layers of silk with delicate beadwork (some say she was the first to design a “corsetless” gown); she was also known for her elegant ‘naughty but nice’ lingerie—a bridal trousseau darling of the rich and royal. Indeed, the innovative designer was favored by fashionable brides around the world: stars of stage and screen, fiancées of business tycoons, daughters of the nobility (too many to name here!) One of Lucile’s beautiful young brides was a fellow Titanic passenger—recently married to the older and very wealthy John Jacob Astor IV; Madeleine and her unborn child made it to safety, he did not.

Lucile’s élan even spilled over into the popular Downton Abbey television series 100 years later! There’s a scene in season three—soon before Lady Edith Crawley’s ill-fated wedding—when Cora, Lady Grantham (quite the fashionista), informs Violet, the Dowager Countess, that the bride would, of course, be wearing ‘Lucile.’

Mary Marvin in Farquharson & Wheelock design
Courtesy: Randy Bryan Bigham
Mary Farquharson Marvin—the daughter of another high-society couturiere—and her husband were also first-class passengers on the Titanic, returning to New York from their European honeymoon. Mary’s mother was half of the Farquharson & Wheelock design team—two Scottish sisters with fashion ateliers in Washington, DC and New York City. Naturally, they designed Mary’s stylish wedding gown and, because of their fame, she appeared in Vogue wearing the bridal confection. (A decade later, Farquharson & Wheelock created the lace and silk tabard-style gown for Biltmore heiress Cornelia Vanderbilt’s wedding in Asheville, NC.)

The family of Mary’s husband, Daniel Warner Marvin, were pioneers in the motion picture production business and, although their wedding in early 1912 was not filmed, the ceremony was restaged for the camera a few months later, making international news. The London Daily Mirror reported it as the very first wedding to be “cinematographed.” Sadly, like many men on the sinking Titanic, Mary’s husband saw his young wife safely aboard a lifeboat, then stayed behind and went down with the magnificent ship. ~

December 8, 2017

{Meghan Markle: An Activist Since Age 11}

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle love many things about each other I'm sure...and one of those attractions is compassionate activism! Meghan learned, with support from her father, that even at age eleven you can make a big difference in the world!

I love her speech at the United Nations Women's Conference in 2015 (in her role as UN WOMEN ambassador) where she shares the childhood story! Enjoy....
...and remember, you don't have to be a princess to make a positive change in the world!

November 18, 2017

{Coronation Gowns / excerpt No. 1}

Here's an excerpt from one of my presentations, “SOMETHING MOST ROYAL: Recreating Crowns & Gowns for Victoria & Elizabeth, featuring costume design stories from PBS’ Victoria and Netflix’ The Crown about recreating the royal wedding gowns and ornate coronation garments. (Since you can read about Victoria and Elizabeth's wedding gowns in my latest book, I thought I'd share information about their coronations here!)
Sometime between Victoria’s accession to the throne and her coronation in 1838, just over a year in time—“the Mistress of the Robes received an enquiry from the Treasury about the cost of the robes the Queen would require…this would need to be included in the overall coronation expenses to be presented to Parliament for official approval.”

For the garments alone, there were hundreds of busy fingers! Not just dressmakers, robe-makers, shoe and stocking makers, as well as crown-makers to engage and instruct, but decisions, like:

Was there time to custom-weave silk satins, silk velvets and cloths of gold…or would these precious fabrics have to be bought—Heaven Forbid!!—“off the shelf”? And what about the regal wear for the Queen’s Maids of Honor?

Would a new crown have to be made for the monarch’s tiny head? Would her tiny feet reach the floor once seated in the sacred 500-year-old St Edward’s Chair?
So many dilemmas, so little time!!

Nonetheless, at 10 on the morning of 28 June 1838, the Queen sets off from Buckingham Palace “wearing the kirtle of her Parliament robe over her dress of gold-brocaded white satin,” according to official records. 

“In paintings of Victoria’s coronation her dress is consistently obscured by her robes and only recently has it become possible to gain an idea of this rich silk dress, when a page was deciphered from the ledgers of the Office of Robes as relating to the coronation.” (So this is how Rosalind Ebbutt, the costume designer, knew how to recreate Victoria’s gown in a more authentic design.) The original fabric, probably of Spitalfields manufacture, is “a design of cartouches and flowers worked in sliver-gilt strip on a white satin ground”—probably “off the shelf” instead of custom woven, and probably made by QV’s “long-serving dressmaker, Mary Bettans.”

Jenna Coleman from "Victoria" on PBS
Victoria was also wearing the silver, gold and “diamond circlet of George IV, one of the most familiar pieces of royal jewelry. (We’ll see it later with Queen Elizabeth.) Victoria had it reset with diamonds and pearls from the royal collection” (in fact, it is “set with 1,333 diamonds, including a 4 carat pale yellow brilliant in the centre of the front cross”)… “and Victoria wore it constantly until the death of her husband Prince Albert.”

Although made for George IV’s extravagant coronation in 1821, “the diadem has been regularly worn (and slightly modified) by queens regnant and consort from Queen Adelaide onwards. This feminine association belies its origin….”

[to be continued....]

October 16, 2017

{Designing Glow}

My article, "Designing Glow," features some of our favorite television dramas with brides and their wedding gowns designed to glow! Just published in the fall issue of SEASON magazine (page 54 online), I share it below with images added from Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones and Outlander. Enjoy!

Designing Glow

As a fashion historian, I enjoy reading about the creative process used by costume designers for period films and television dramas. And as a wedding folklorist, writing about the bride’s rite-of-passage, I’ve come to see how a woman’s deep desire to be beautiful on her wedding day reflects a universal expression of the feminine spirit, tapping into her true goddess nature, her radiance.

In the last few years, brides have found fashion inspiration from the work of those costume designers in touch with such an aspiration—a woman’s wish to glow! Remember the first family wedding on Downton Abbey? Set in 1920, costume designer Caroline McCall had more than designing something with a romantic vintage vibe in mind. For Lady Mary’s marriage to Matthew Crawley, she etched the slender gown’s lace overlay with a delicate silver thread, adding tiny Swarovski crystals and rice pearls so Mary would “twinkle in the morning light.”  

Then there’s the shimmery sensuality of Game of Thrones! In the exotic imagination of Michele Clapton, its award-winning costume designer, the ornately intricate Westeros wedding gowns—with their golden palettes; metallic embroidered dragons, lion heads and Diawolfs; primitive lacework and flowing trains—turned the show’s brides into gleaming, other-worldly creatures. 
Modern brides adapted this Medieval-like fantasy with crystal diadems and mystical glamour, ancient armor-inspired motifs (seeking their inner Wonder Woman?), even replicating Margaery’s elaborate “hair sausages” and her queenly wedding crown crafted from Baratheon antlers wrapped in thorny briar roses. (Everything candlelit for epic “glow effect”!)

For the long-awaited reenacting of Outlander’s 18th century wedding set in the Scottish Highlands, the costume designer wanted Claire—the bride and time-traveling heroine—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—were the foundation of the immensely popular Outlander books and subsequent television series, therefore the direction from the show’s creator: “This moment needed to be a fairy tale.”

“In the 18th century, metallic textiles were made with actual metal woven into the fabrics,” explained Terry. “When you put them in a room filled with candles, they just glow. They’re quite remarkable.” By incorporating delicate shavings of iridescent mica rock—plus an old, time-consuming embroidery technique using metal strands—Terry could be true to the spirit of the era while also creating something stunning and shimmering for Claire’s wedding gown.

With all this focus on “glowing,” 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,” Regena observes. 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. ~

October 7, 2017

{A White Wedding Gown?}

People are always curious about the “white wedding dress”—it’s history and traditions...and most people have misconceptions about both! Perhaps it's the reason that I hear from lots of readers who enjoyed my book, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: For Better or Worse, How Princess Diana Rescued the Great White Wedding, and its stories about the legacy of this fabled gown!

That's why the headline in the New York Times' Twitter feed, “A White Wedding Gown? It’s a Tradition That’s Not For Everyone,” caught my attention. And I thought you’d appreciate the accompanying article by Marianne Rohrlich, "The Dress: Honoring Tradition." She explains how a bride's culture or religion may influence her wedding gown. Click on the link and enjoy!

September 27, 2017

{Something Blue & More}

I recently saw in Bride magazine online a new article: “51 Something Blue Accessory Ideas for Your Wedding Day”—lots of sexy blue shoes, neat little clutch-bags, drop earrings that looked more “honeymoon” than “wedding gown,” lacy lingerie, even blue-trimmed sunglasses! Calling the Something Old, Something New bridal ritual “an age-old tradition” (it’s not!), the article, like so many about modern weddings, was full of fashion fluff and low on womanly depth. Fashion ideas for your wedding can be fun, but sometimes it overshadows the real focus—your relationship!

In that spirit, I want to share an excerpt from my first book, The Bride’s Ritual Guide: Look Inside to Find Yourself, that focuses on the Something Old, Something New bridal rhyme, with a modern yet folkloric—and very femininetwist!  In the book, I call the something blue part of the bridal ritual: "Something intimate and magical. A sweet and tender connection to something divine; a reminder of the depth and eloquence of love without conditions." See below for more something history....

Wedding traditions, to borrow a phrase from Carol McD. Wallace in her book All Dressed in White, have “complicated roots.”

Take the rhyme, “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a sixpence for your shoe”—the familiar little verse that became a beloved personal ritual for generations of brides. The rhyme itself may not be that old, but the customs it describes have been around for centuries. In cultures worldwide and for as long as we know, there was some sort of superstitious custom for brides to tuck a little token of abundance (pieces of bread, a lump of sugar, coins, a bit of ribbon, a silver charm) into their purse, glove, or shoe or sew the items into the hem of their dress. This was all done in the desire to call forth good luck, great fortune—including lots of healthy children—or some magical promise of love forever!

Shoe historian Cameron Kippen reminds us that “a long standing bridal superstition stated no harm could befall a bride wearing blue.” Through the ages, wide-ranging references to the color blue surround it with compelling and even divine properties. The color is often associated with the Virgin Mary and is cited in Geoffrey Chaucer’s fourteenth century “The Squire’s Tale” from The Canterbury Tales as a symbol of truth and faithfulness.

With such rich folkloric history, it stands to reason that somewhere along the way, some sentimental poet put it all together in a romantic rhyme. A rhyme composed, perchance, as a gift to an adored bride, her name unknown to us now, but like brides before and since, their images became an icon of womanhood.

This is only a bit of the mystery and superstition around the Something Old, Something New rhyme—the most feminine of all wedding rituals. Enjoy more stories with your own copy of The Bride’s Ritual Guide: Look Inside to Find Yourself. ~

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 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 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 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.

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!


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