April 16, 2016

{A Veil of Distinction}

Dear Bride-to-Be: 
I thought youd enjoy my article, “A Veil of Distinction,” just published in the spring issue of Season Magazine. Click here to read it online...and Ive reprinted it below as well.

A Veil of Distinction
Wedding veils hold an especially distinctive yet intimate place in a family’s collective memory. Even more than the wedding gown, the family bridal veil has, historically, been the treasure most often passed down and shared with daughters and granddaughters, nieces and cousins.

That was the case with a certain heirloom veil with a most captivating provenance. First worn by Margaret Merritt as an Edwardian bride when she married James Thomas Lee of New York City in 1903, her cathedral-length, rose point lace veil was also worn by her daughters Marion Lee Ryan, Janet Lee Bouvier and Winifred Lee D’Olier. But this veil developed a particular mystique when her granddaughter Jacqueline Bouvier wore it, along with Margaret’s delicate wreath of wax orange blossoms, for her marriage to Senator John F. Kennedy in 1953.

I became intrigued by this veil’s lineage when I learned it was to go on a first-ever display early this year as part of the wedding costume exhibitions on Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. The veil’s connection with the Vanderbilt family is through Jackie Kennedy’s cousin, Mary Lee Ryan—“Mimi” wore it when she married George Vanderbilt’s grandson, William Amherst Cecil, in 1957.

Jackie’s only daughter Caroline Kennedy didn’t wear the Lee family veil, but both Mimi’s daughter and daughter-in-law wore it with their 1980’s Diana-era “princess gowns.” I find this is part of the beauty and pleasure of a bridal veil: as fashions change, it can be adapted to wear in various stylish ways; and even as women and their roles change, because of its strong feminine impulse, the bridal veil always carries a precious tradition.

Lace was immensely fashionable for Victorian and Edwardian ladies and, indeed, de rigueur for brides during these gilded decades. Following the creation of “rose point” lace in Brussels in the mid-19th century—a type of point de gaze needle lace so named because of its lyrical rose design, often with raised petals—this romantic pattern became a favorite of brides. Therefore when well-to-do American women made their grand transatlantic voyages to Europe on the most majestic luxury liner of the day (it was simply the thing to do!), high on their must-do list was to bring back a lace veil from Belgium—all with dreams of a wedding in mind. (Is that how the lovely rose point veil worn by the Lee family brides—and then the Cecils of North Carolina—began its notable pedigree?)

Later when lace was not as popular and travel to Europe was aboard airplanes instead of ships, bringing home a lace wedding veil stayed dear to the hearts of many American women. Perhaps there is one stored away in your family’s “treasure chest”? ~

March 19, 2016

{Bridal Inspiration from Downton Abbey}

Dear Bride-to-Be:
The appealingly British Downton Abbey series has brought us some beautiful 1920s-inspired wedding dresses over the years! In season three, Lady Mary’s gossamer layers of ivory silk and vintage lace, delicately beaded, in a column-shaped design worn when she married Matthew Crawley; and Lady Edith’s slipper satin and silk chiffon asymmetrical confection with a Watteau-like back for her “almost wedding”—both gowns custom-made from old and new materials by costume designer Caroline McCall.

In season five, Lady Rose’s fabulous sweep of a vintage gown in silk tulle with dainty gold sequins and a circular train was only glimpsed for a moment on screen, but worth a relook! (The show’s costume designer at that time, Anna Mary Scott Robbins, found the original, perfectly-preserved gown at an antique fair.)

Then in the romantic final season six, Mary remarries in an ivory two-piece suit—made of a crisp silk and bamboo fabric—with a knife-pleated skirt and lovely hand-worked original trim shaped into a sharp-V design. (Plus a fetching, brimmed hat with real 'preserved' butterflies on the vintage baling as the designer gives a nod to the bride’s new beginnings!)

And, of course, the sweet finale with Edith becoming a Marchioness—and happy! Costume designer Anna Robbins created a graceful, custom wedding dress with lovely layers of antique Brussels lace—ankle length with a small swish of a train and lots of lacy veiling. (Did you notice that Edith wore a diamond tiara for the wedding ceremony and a vintage pearl-beaded headdress with a jaunty tassel for the reception?)

Perhaps these 1920s fashions have such appeal to us now because this was the era of the budding “modern woman”—smart and sassy, romantic and bold.

Love. Listen. Let go.
…with love from Cornelia

ps: A few seats remaining for my "Tea & Flowers & Costumes" fete at the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina in April....come hear more 1920s design inspirations of those Downton bridal costumes!

February 27, 2016

{Fashionable Romance}

Dear Bride-to-Be
Who doesn’t love to hear stories of wedding pageantry and descriptions of the bride’s distinctive costume? The wedding gown is designed as a dress of “wish fulfillment,” wrote costume historian Eleanor Thompson, “materializing the hopes and fantasies of a bride.”

Perhaps that’s why people are flocking to the new exhibition, “Fashionable Romance: Wedding Gowns from Film,” opened this month at the legendary Biltmore House in Asheville, North Carolina. The costumes on display are from some of our favorite period films and television series…several based on Jane Austen and George Eliot novels, other gowns designed for royal brides from the past.

Whatever you are wearing on your wedding day—whether something inspired by a romantic film or a lovingly restored gown worn by your grandmother—you may feel like a “movie star” or even a princess. However, remember to include your warm heart and loving embrace to share the intimacy of your special day!

Love. Listen. Let go.
….with love from Cornelia

ps: Come join me for “Tea & Flowers & Costumes” Special FĂȘte this April at Biltmore during their beautiful wedding costume exhibition! Click here for your invitation and more information.

[Images: Left, EMMA, ©1996 Courtesy of Miramax and, right, courtesy of Biltmore Company]


February 14, 2016

{Odes to Love}

Dear Bride-to-Be: 
In celebration of the season of love, I thought I'd share some of my favorite quotes on the subject!

We can only learn to love by loving. 
~Iris Murdoch

Do all things with love. 
~Og Mandino 

Listen to your heart above all other voices. 
~Marta Dante 

Gratitude is what returns us to love.
~Lisa Clapier

 Love is, above all, the gift of oneself.
~Jean Anouilh

…only love is real. 
~Marianne Williamson 

If we really want to love, we must learn how to forgive. 
~Mother Teresa

Love. Listen. Let go. 
...with love from Cornelia

Photograph: Courtesy of Vogue