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. ~

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