December 29, 2013

{Still a Conundrum}

The life of Princess Diana remains a conundrum in many ways...especially when there is an attempt to "translate" her life in some art form.

Like this year's universally panned namesake film. In case you missed Tina Brown's commentary about Diana in The Daily Beast after seeing the film starring Naomi Watts, I thought you'd enjoy reading it.

You'd think the princess's obsessive affair with a Pakistani doctor would make for an electric film. Yes, Diana, with its soporific romance and awful dialogue, is a colossal bore.
It's hard to imagine how a movie about history's most turbulent, highly strung, beleaguered celebrity princess could have been turned into something so tension-free and oddly suburban.
[Read More]

December 3, 2013

{The Return of Lace}

[This is a reprint of my article, "The Return of Lace," featured in the winter issue of Season magazine. To read it in the magazine's layout online, scroll to page 46. Enjoy!]


 The Return of Lace
Its early Venetian name, Punta in Aria—“stitches in air”—said it all: ethereal and mysterious. Lace has charmed and bewitched both men and women for centuries, worn as high-status fashion accessories at a time when you were what you wore! When lace became de rigueur for aristocratic brides, it was worn for its prestige (only the rich could afford it) as much as for its beauty (lace always captivated!)
There are stories from centuries past of brides who wore yards and yards of precious handmade needle and bobbin laces—worth a king’s ransom—but modern wedding history starts with Queen Victoria. Big white wedding gowns have been around since she broke with the silvery custom and chose “plain white” for her wedding in 1840. To make a statement—after all she was already queen of an empire—she called on England’s beloved yet faltering lace industry to create deep borders of handmade Honiton lace to trim her dress and silk tulle veil. Of course her wedding was highly publicized so the lace legacy was re-ignited and became associated with brides through the 1950s, highlighted by Grace Kelly’s silk taffeta gown with a fitted antique Brussels lace bodice and high collar. (What 50s-era bride didn’t want to look like a princess?)

Even when lace was out of fashion, it was typical for American women making a voyage “to the continent” to bring back a rose point lace veil from Belgium or Valenciennes lace yardage from France with dreams of a wedding in mind. Through the social upheavals of the 1960s and 70s, lace as well as traditional wedding ceremonies took a back seat until Princess Diana’s royal nuptials turned weddings back into stylish events and romantic, lace-trimmed gowns became the favorite of 1980s brides. (The lace appliquéd on Diana’s corseted bodice once belonged to Queen Mary, Prince Charles’ great-grandmother.)
In the 1980s and 90s, my bridal art-to-wear shop in Atlanta followed this practice of incorporating vintage laces into new gowns—“elegant recycling” as one of my designers called it. When creating Lady Mary’s wedding dress, Downton Abbey’s costume designer used this technique by repurposing an antique lace veil she found; it became the centerpiece in a delicate crystal-trimmed, tabard-style silk chiffon confection inspired by royal brides of the early 1920s.

Of course the most memorable lace revival was Kate Middleton! Her sweeping designer wedding gown with its sheer long sleeves and lace trimmed bodice and skirt—laces handmade by artisans at the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace—set the fashion runways abuzz. Other royal brides followed suit with sumptuous dresses of the finest machine-made laces: Sweden’s Princess Madeleine married this year wearing a Valentino pleated silk organza gown with an open lace bodice; Princess Stephanie and Princess Claire of Luxembourg royalty both recently wore dreamy Elie Saab couture gowns with crystal- and pearl-encrusted Chantilly lace like something out of the most shimmering fairytale … and something only lace’s mystical filigree nature could inspire. □

[This is a reprint of my article, "The Return of Lace," featured in the winter issue of Season magazine. To read it in the magazine's layout online, scroll to page 46.]

October 27, 2013

{Royal Christening Gown Designer Revealed}

23 October 2013
Janet Sutherland of Falkirk, Scotland ("embroiderer to Queen Victoria") created the original royal Christening gown in 1841 for the Windsor family. Prince George, however, wore a replica of the now fragile ritual costume created by the current Queen's couturier, Angela Kelly. Read the entire interesting story from the Telegraph.

Prince William in the original royal Christening gown
in 1981...the next-to-last Windsor to wear it.

September 20, 2013

{Leaving Blessings in Her Wake: Revisiting Diana}

[This is a reprint of my article, "Leaving Blessings in Her Wake: Revisiting Diana," featured in the fall issue of Season magazine. To read it in the magazine's layout online, scroll to page 45. Enjoy!]

With the recent birth of her grandson (a future king) and a movie coming out this fall focusing on the last two years of her life, the world’s most popular cover girl—and princess bride—is once again in the news. Revisiting Princess Diana may bring to mind many things, but most memorable to me is her lasting influence on the world of weddings. With her own glorious wedding in the summer of 1981, marrying the heir to the British throne, pomp and posh circumstance was resurrected and getting married became fashionable again!
Once Diana lit up the screen, brides-to-be were less embarrassed by their parents calling for a “traditional” wedding. The “studied informality of society in the 1970s,” wrote historian Carol McD. Wallace, “often made brides and grooms uncomfortable with the old-fashioned ritual they enacted as they married.” But Prince Charles in his dashing uniform and Lady Diana in her fairy princess gown made it all look so glamorous and appealing to the budding Yuppies of the 1980s, with visions of grandeur and love of gilded tradition.

I opened my bridal art-to-wear store in Atlanta on the wave of Diana’s magic—between the two Windsor royal weddings that decade—and my designers were busy creating “princess gowns” for years:   Elegant fluffs of ivory silk with big crinoline skirts, blown-up sleeves, corseted bodices, and hand-beaded trims of antique lace. Worn with gossamer tulle veils and crowns of wax orange blossoms (my customers weren’t yet ready for glittering tiaras), something very womanly was ignited in the process.
Bridal veils made a come-back with Diana. Hers was lush and sparkly and, in the old tradition, covered her face for a much fussed-over “virginal” arrival into St. Paul’s cathedral on her father’s arm. Many feminists called it a “shroud.” And for some modern young women just beginning to revel in their independence and sexual freedom, wearing a bridal veil indeed seemed a bit passé.

However, since my focus was helping a bride feel just as beautiful inside as she looked outside, I thought the veil—like Diana’s—seemed to connect her with something deeply feminine and quietly mysterious (whether worn over the face or simply attached to the back of her head.) Plus, it just looked so pretty! Later on I wrote this bit of wedding folklore:
What has become known as a “bridal veil” in European-American heritage borrows the best from both Eastern and Western cultures. From Eastern tradition, brides inherit a sense of being veiled as capturing a meditative space for their own private reverie. The Western lineage of the veil takes inspiration from the prestige and grandeur of fashions at long-ago royal courts.
Diana brought this collective spirit into the heart of modern brides worldwide, guiding their choices even today. Is the romance of wearing a bridal veil part of the “fairy princess myth”? Or is there something so irresistibly feminine about feeling mysterious—cocooned in sheer shimmering tulle or with the veil just floating behind, leaving “princess blessings” in her bridal wake?  ~

[This is a reprint of my article published in the fall issue of Season Magazine.]

September 6, 2013

{Huffington Post Begins New Princess Diana Wedding Series}

The first of my new three-part series of articles on Huffington Post blog focuses on Princess Diana and her influence on the culture of weddings: Revisiting Princess Diana and Her Wedding Legacy {Part One: The World of Celebrity} Please check it out....and "like" or share or comment! Many thanks....

August 3, 2013

{Vanity Fair Revisits Diana}

Looking toward the new movie this fall about the last two years of Princess Diana's life -- focusing on her two-year love affair with Dr. Hasnat Khan -- Vanity Fair magazine revisits that time in a cover article in their September 2013 issue by Sarah Ellison. The movie, Diana, starring Naomi Watts as the princess and directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, will be released this fall.

With that in mind, I selected this excerpt from my book-in-progress, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride, as the first of several I'll post about these years in Diana's life ... until (and maybe beyond) the movie comes out! (This excerpt is from a section called "A Grateful Heart.")

Was it another one of those cosmic twists that this same woman known in many world circles as the princess with a big, open heart, died of a ruptured one? Or that the man Diana was said to truly love was a famous heart surgeon in London and his grief and remorse at her death was compounded because he believed, according to Paul Burrell’s second biography, that he could have saved her life? “Whatsoever ye mete, shall be meted unto you again.” Michael Anderton shared this quote from the Bible in his essay When a Princess Dies, then added: “Even our good deeds come back to us not only in reward but in judgment. An awareness can sometimes come, with overwhelming and blinding clarity, of a God who does not pussyfoot.”

July 1997 issue of VF
I believe that everything in life is an opportunity to learn something deeper about ourselves, a chance to explore never imagined possibilities. Or as A Course in Miracles expresses, everything that happens to us is a “forgiveness lesson”—thank you ‘for giving’ me another opportunity to let go and grow. The heartache Diana experienced after her divorce actually opened her spirit to something new: freedom. She may not have had the strong emotional grounding to take on her self-worth issues completely, but at last she felt she had the freedom to begin finding her voice, her center, her purpose in life. Amidst all the turmoil and intense scrutiny that continued, she now had the freedom to explore what was indeed possible; and it seems she was finding her footing on the right holistic path. “Whatever Diana’s inward state, outwardly, she appears to be approaching contentment,” observed an article titled “Diana Reborn” in Vanity Fair that hit the stands at the time of the New York charity auction in June of 1997.

As Diana was reframing her life during this time, one idea I’d like  us to reframe now is “regret.” With a short, complex life, especially with such a “fairy-tale” quality as Diana lived, it’s easy to get into the “if only” regret game. I have a request, especially of Diana fans and followers—and something to practice for all of us. My request is that we think of nothing of Diana’s life as a regret—not her childhood, her marriage, her affairs, her lost loves, her death. Whatever happens in life happens—whether part of some divine plan or whether it’s all a mush of convoluted random events. But everything that happened to Diana was an integral part of her legacy—otherwise we may never have heard about Diana Frances Spencer. And if we can let go of any regret, or blame, or judgment, or belief and simply be grateful for her life, then not only do we contribute to the power of Diana’s mission of opening hearts, but our heart opens as well. In the act of letting go of blame and regret, judgment and anger, and whatever else our fears cook up, hearts open. ~

[This is an excerpt from The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride ... my future book using the archetypal journey of Princess Diana to mirror our own self-discovery, showing what relationship lessons emerged from her spot-lit life. Other excerpts from the last two years of her life will be posted over the next couple of months.]

July 5, 2013

{Fashion Rules} Exhibition at Kensington Palace

Just opened, "Fashion Rules" -- a new royal wardrobe exhibition at Kensington Palace displaying evening gowns worn by Queen Elizabeth in the 1950s, "Grace and Elegance," her sister Princess Margaret in the 60s and 70s, "Pop Fashion for a Princess," and Diana, Princess of Wales in the 80s, "Glitz and Glamour." Twenty-one couture gowns, by ten notable designers, are on view for the two-year exhibition.
Staff prepping gown worn by Princess Margaret in Paris
Collection of couture gowns worn by Princess Diana in the 80s
1950s gowns worn by Queen Elizabeth


July 1, 2013

{Legacy of Motherhood}

Today, the first of July, would have been Princess Diana's 52nd birthday. As her oldest son, Prince William, and his wife Kate are waiting the birth of their first child, I'll share this interview with Ingrid Seward, editor-in-chief of Majesty Magazine, with her thoughts on the legacy of motherhood that the young couple inherit.

May 15, 2013

{A New Dream}

[An excerpt from my book-in-progress, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Princess Diana Rescued the Damsel in Distress.] 
As a bride-to-be, most modern women may not have to deal with the complicated dynamics of a duty-bound, rather emotionally suppressed, life-in-a-fish-bowl royal family for their inherited in-laws when considering marriage like Diana did. But everyone—commoner and prince—has baggage: habits, personality traits, patterns, preferences. So it’s important to be rigorously honest with ourselves about what attracts us to another: “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are,” writer Anaїs Nin reminded us. So who is making your choices; who is paying attention today? Is it your “small self” or your “big Self”? Are you speaking and listening from your fears or from your heart and soul? Are you willing to look a little deeper than the surface, a little wider and broader, even when the superficial is so dazzlingly enticing? 
I remember reading long ago something like: What you find charming about someone in courtship may drive you crazy when married to them! (It only took reaching the honeymoon for Charles and Diana.) So remove your rose-colored glasses; take a deep, slow breath—then another and another—and listen closely for that wise voice within. The wisdom of our inner spirit waiting for us there knows the difference in romance and love; love and infatuation; fantasy and what the heart truly desires. However, if we live as though we don’t, then we end up choosing either the wrong man or wrong woman, or the wrong reason—or some combination of “wrong.” (And not wrong as in they’re “wrong” and you’re “right”; but they’re not the choice that your “big Self” would make.)  
“If you’re open to be guided by Spirit,” author Kathy Freston writes in TheOne: Discovering the Secrets of Soul Mate Love, “sometimes awareness comes through gentle recognition, and sometimes it storms into our world through pain. The ‘bad news’ is that the pain will keep coming back in somewhat the same form until we learn the lesson it is trying to bring; but the good news is that once we get it, that kind of dysfunction won’t show up again.”  
Diana’s “old unfulfilled dream haunted her,” Tina Brown declared about the unhappy princess in The Diana Chronicles. Do you have an unfulfilled dream that you need to let go of, that doesn’t serve your “big Self” anymore? Maybe it’s a dream that has become an old tired story, a recurring pattern that actually takes you away from your deeper, down in your soul dream. Relook. Perhaps it’s a dream that just needs a little dusting off and tweaking or maybe it’s time to allow a whole new dream rise up. 
“Dreams get you into the future and add excitement to the present,” self-help guru Robert Conklin said. And from Conversationswith God author Neale Donald Walsch who declared that “dreams are the container of the soul.” Then he asks: “Is your dream today vast enough, bold enough, to hold your soul? They are the Holding Place of God. So dream big, yes, because the bigger you dream the more of God you let in.” These and other successful and accomplished dreamers encourage us to “dream often and big” and to follow the one that really connects with our spirit. I say that if you have a dream that connects you deeply with kindness and love, then follow that one.

March 14, 2013

{Why Diana?} Part Three: "Called to Write"

Divided into three blog posts, this is part three of the Author's Note, "Why Diana?," from my new, upcoming book The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Princess Diana Rescued the Damsel in Distress.]

It was not until several years after she died that I first wrote about Diana, inspired by a New Age Journal article from early 1998 that I had saved: “Why We Can’t Let Princess Di Go” by Dr. Caroline Myss. My resulting short essay, “End of the Myth,” was for a book that never got published, Weddings of Grace: The Bride You Want to Be, the Woman You Become. The unpublished book’s collection of essays, however, became the foundation of an online magazine by the same name that I created and launched in 2006. That Diana essay became, in a much expanded version, part of a chapter in this book. In repurposing these writings, I was practicing something I deeply believe: that death or loss transforms into a multi-dimensional rebirth, becoming a new beginning of unimagined inspiration—if we are willing and open to be inspired. Whether the loss is a person or a tree or a pet or even a first book, its energy remains to encourage us along our path.

The first incarnation of this “Diana book” began in an animated scribble in 2007 on that same porch overlooking a small courtyard where I had read the news about Diana’s death a decade before. This time, enjoying a Sunday morning ritual of herbal tea along with the New York Times, I read author Caroline Weber’s review of The Diana Chronicles. Weber’s descriptions from Tina Brown’s biography, featured on the front page of the Sunday Book Review, simply popped as I read—the words forming a framework of inspiration. All my intuitive signals said this was a book I was to write. Here was a message for all women underneath the many stories in the life of this princess; I saw broader, deeper consequences of her legacy to tell. With that context in mind, I immediately started creating an outline based on Weber’s review and the quotations she used from Brown’s book. I was never drawn to read any of the multitudes of Diana biographies, even the ones that were said to be fair and well-researched. The tabloid-like presentation of her life gave the books a tawdry flavor, tainting them all for me, so I had stayed away. Yet once I filled a couple of notebook pages in only a few minutes that morning with ideas from just this brief book review, I thought it was time. So I walked across Peachtree Road to Barnes and Noble, joining millions around the world, and bought Tina Brown’s book! Now my Diana adventure began. But the adventure wasn’t really about Diana, it was about the journey of every woman and how this particularly unique iconic life brought heart-opening messages for us all. ~

[Divided into three blog posts, this is part three from the Author's Note, "Why Diana?," in my new, upcoming book The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Princess Diana Rescued the Damsel in Distress. (For the other parts of this three-part post, click on "Why Diana?" in label list below.) I'm in the final editing stages of the book, so stay tuned for news!]

February 28, 2013

{Why Diana?} Part Two: "Diana as Messenger"

Divided into three blog posts, this is part two of the Author's Note, "Why Diana?," from my book-in-progress, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Princess Diana Rescued the Damsel in Distress.]


Nevertheless, since her wedding, Diana’s life had never really touched mine until at summer’s end in 1997 with news of her death. I can picture the moment I read the bold newspaper headline as I sat on my cozy screened-in porch that Sunday morning. I was at home in Atlanta and felt a mixed sense of disbelief, sadness and for a split second, a remembrance of another Sunday morning headline more than thirty years before. Then, even as a sheltered little girl in rural Alabama, I wondered how I could feel so sad at the death of a young, beautiful blonde Hollywood movie star who I only knew by image, yet felt some “connection.” And now here that “pit-in-my-stomach emptiness” was again. What is this energy that happens to a body at the death of a person whose iconic images were all we knew?

However, in the days to follow that Diana headline jolt was when I became truly intrigued by her. “For many people…Princess Diana has become far more interesting since her death than ever she was during her life,”English writer and Jungian analyst Warren Colman shared soon after Diana died. That’s when I began to look beyond appearances to the person “who could inspire such an enormous response in so many people”—the real person distinct from the image. She was eulogized by the Dean of Westminster as “someone for whom from afar we all dared to feel affection, and by whom we were all intrigued,” Simone Simmons wrote. “Intrigued”—here was that word again; a word that conjures up a sense of magic. Who was this “messenger” that captured the world’s attention and heart? What was the big picture of her life and mission? With the approach of a new millennium swirling in on the wings of shifting feminine energies, were we moving into the dynamics of a Diana-influenced perfect storm: global, transformative and heart-centered?

Diana in death seemed to be leading people through the depths of a powerful rite-of-passage; transmuting their grief into heart opening energy as they let go of an inheritance of sorrow and karmic boundaries—like a spiritual cleansing down to our bones. Yet there were many who considered the outpouring of grief at the shock of her death just more of the “Diana hysteria” they had witnessed during her lifetime. But then, looking back, in the wake of such a transformation, no one was untouched by these old emotional barriers falling or the new consciousness bubbling up. The week between Diana’s death and her memorial service seemed to be a time of “readying”—preparing the world for major transitions. As Simmons said in her biography published soon after her friend’s death: “the tragedy will prove to be as valuable as her life….”

I was in London a month or so after Diana’s funeral service (my last buying trip there before I closed my store a couple of years later at the end of 1999) and all the local designers and antique dealers I called on spoke of that week between Diana’s death and the televised service in Westminster Abbey. They had never felt the city so still. They shared that the few people who were on the streets were quiet, reverent, as though in a daze. Some people—including themselves, their friends and clients—were openly emotional, expressing deep sorrow even if they had not been “fans” of the princess. I understand such open emotion was not typical for the British, but then, other mysteries were emerging as well. “We had never seen anything like this, we had never been like this,” journalist and feminist Beatrix Campbell wrote. “Or rather we didn’t know that we had been like this before.” ~

[Divided into three blog posts, this is part two from the Author's Note, "Why Diana?," in my book-in-progress, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Princess Diana Rescued the Damsel in Distress. Part Three: "Called to Write" will be posted soon! (For the other parts of this three-part post, click on "Why Diana?" in label list below.)]

February 13, 2013

{Why Diana?} Part One

[Divided into three blog posts, this is part one of the Author's Note, "Why Diana?," from my new, upcoming book The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Princess Diana Rescued the Damsel in Distress.]

 And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.  ~Anaїs Nin

My interest in Princess Diana went in and out over the years, but it began, as for many, in early 1981 at the engagement of a prince—the heir to a mythical throne who was considered one of the world’s most eligible bachelors. And his intended was a young, pretty girl who seemed to have a light about her. I don’t think anyone imagined, however, the impact of her real mission until much later.

Looking forward to the royal wedding for months, I watched Prince Charles marry Lady Diana Spencer in the summer morning anticipation of whatever it is that weddings, royal or otherwise, stir in us. I stayed in touch with Diana’s life because her wedding had influenced my own life by galvanizing an outdated bridal industry, changing the nature of weddings. Since I had opened a “bridal art-to-wear” store in Atlanta on the wave that followed Diana’s glittering event, my shop’s designers were called on to make versions of elegant, hand-beaded, trimmed with antique lace “Diana princess gowns” for our bridal customers.

Although there was something fascinating about the charismatic young princess, I had little interest after a few years in the gossipy presentation of Charles and Diana’s life and marriage. (“Nagging, moody wife drives exasperated prince back into the arms of the woman he had loved all along!”) There was, nevertheless, a sweetness that trickled out in the images and stories of Diana’s tenderness as a mother and Charles’ softening with fatherhood. And since the couple had kept global attention focused on the British monarchy, the next royal wedding a few years later (when Prince Andrew wed Sarah Ferguson) brought me back into the regal fold for a short time. The tabloid terrors that followed, however, all seemed too embarrassing to watch.

But Diana did catch my interest during those “soap opera” years when she seemed to follow her intuitive heart and I’d see images of her with children or the elderly or especially with AIDS patients—a huge break-through at the time—and there was that light again around her and the people she touched. Even during the media-hounded dramas and shenanigans, her compassionate attention seemed to carry that light along with her.

Perhaps nudged along because of my previous work in New York’s fashion magazine industry or perhaps because human beings are simply attracted by a woman’s remarkable beauty, but I perked up once again when Princess Diana, around the time of her divorce, became a striking fashion plate—enhanced by with her long, lean, toned body. Yet Diana held my attention in another way. It was following that particular rite-of-passage—divorce from her official royal life—when she appeared to move toward a bigger purpose and, in turn, I became curious how she might use the power and position of her world platform. Startling beauty and charisma like hers help sell compassion, but what else was weaving through Diana’s energy? Something beyond appearances was stirring.

My shop focused on the clothes and gifts for life’s rites-of-passage; not only weddings, but with our work to beautifully restore vintage Edwardian “whites,” we also dressed family celebrations that included christenings, confirmations and graduations. During this time, I became more interested in the nature of these passages throughout a girl and woman’s life. As my designers created the garments and accessories, I studied and learned about the ancient heritage of these intimate ceremonies of connection and transition as well as the importance of how costumes shaped the wearers’ inner and outer transformation. I watched as Princess Diana moved through the adult rites-of-passage of her life without the benefit of privacy or with little opportunity, it seemed, for self-reflection, but something had shifted. With the more polished yet womanly changes in her looks, clothes and stature (no longer hiding that she was a sexual woman); and with a glowing radiance (that had nothing to do with her glamour and royalty)—she seemed released in some way, projecting an “every woman” message. And women around the world took notice. ~

[Divided into three blog posts, this is part one from the Author's Note, "Why Diana?," in my new, upcoming book The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride: How Princess Diana Rescued the Damsel in Distress. Part Two: "Diana as Messenger" will be posted soon! (For the other parts of this three-part post, click on "Why Diana?" in label list below.)]



February 3, 2013

{Who's Inside the Dress}

 [The following is an excerpt from my book-in-progress, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride, that uses Princess Diana's life as a 'backdrop' to view and illuminate our own. This is from a section called "Loving the Skin We're In."]

While the royal wedding was being planned and arrangements organized, much of Diana’s attention—like for many brides before and since—went to the dress. In my wedding articles and blogs, I ask brides: What image do you want to remain in the imagination of your guests? It’s not the vision of a lovely woman in a beautiful gown that really inspires. What remains unforgettable and inspiring is when that image is infused with the beauty of an open heart. Being included in the intimacy of the day is the real gift people take home and feel when they recall the image of the bride. Perhaps that’s what makes some wedding dresses themselves so memorable: they were chosen with that same open-hearted, “being in love” attention.

Diana chose the Emanuels—the husband and wife team known for their “full blown romantic style” as described by costume writer Kay Staniland—to design her wedding gown. And I thought her selection was perfectly aligned with the “goddess energy” stirring around her. The designers’ intent, following Diana’s lead, was “to transform [her] into a fairy princess”—and this included lots of flowing silk tulle veils. But it seems the young princess-to-be innately knew how to present herself with the aura of a fairy-tale princess by the choice of such a feminine confection. Her appearance captured the imagination of the world looking in (some say it tapped into the spirit of the Divine Feminine), and—like an inspired, striking physical appearance can do—it not only started fashion trends, but it also changed something fundamental: women’s relationship with themselves as a bride and as a woman.

In later years, the more sophisticated and worldly Diana (who now wore more tailored and simple, sleek clothes) lamented about her choice of the romantically fluffy wedding gown design she selected as a teenager. Maybe this was due in part because the gown’s elaborate design—breaking with a tradition of toned down and sparse styles of the previous two decades—had received criticism from some fashion quarters. Yet thirty years later, on the eve of her son William’s wedding, a survey of 5000 women voted Diana’s dress the “best ever” over a long list of other royal and celebrity brides and their choice of gown.

Diana’s full veil was also criticized at the time as a step backwards for women’s self-expression. But—as I wrote years later about my experiences dressing brides in my shop during the 1980s and 90s—I felt wearing that kind of sheer, gossamer, over-the-face veil gently enveloped the bride in a lovely stillness. Perhaps this was a holdover from what I saw with Diana as a bride and the choices she made. I’m sure I was thinking of her and other brides who had intuitively chosen to wear a veil when I wrote in my book, The Bride’s Ritual Guide: Look Inside to Find Yourself:

As I dressed and fitted brides in the quiet privacy of my shop, I shared this impression with them: “Imagine the bridal veil representing the mystery of womanhood. Wrapped in a gossamer cloud, the veil reveals the woman.”

Then some enchantment would always follow. As I attached a veil to the headpiece in the bride’s hair, I watched closely as she turned to her image in the mirror. Her eyes widened, her face softened, her heart opened and then a little gasp as she looked at her reflection, like some long lost recognition remembered.

When we put our attention inside, it always opens us to notice what’s outside of us in a deeper, more profound way. Whether it’s a flower or the person standing in front of us, when we are really present, then they are really there. And if it’s wearing a wedding veil as a bride that will do the trick, then so be it!

Like all rituals of the marriage ceremony, the various wedding costume components—the special gowns and veils, tiaras and flower garlands; the sashed uniforms and polished boots, top hats and crowns—whatever the time and place and fashion require of the bridal couple, all the wardrobe pieces play their part. This fanciful wedding garb was originally designed to have us feel the moment, to put us on notice of a change to come, that a passage of life is opening its endearments; and the intimacy of how each item feels on our skin is a reminder to slow down, look within and be aware of who is inside the costume! ~

[This is an excerpt from my book-in-progress, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride, that uses Princess Diana's life as a 'backdrop' to view and illuminate our own. This is from a section called "Loving the Skin We're In."]


January 20, 2013

{The Wedding Spotlight} Part Two

[The following is part two of a two-part excerpt from my book-in-progress, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride...from a section called "Loving the Skin We're In"enjoy!]

One of the “mantras” I shared with brides in my former shop, as a reminder to really pay attention during their quintessential rite-of-passage, was something like: “However you 'be' while planning your wedding is how you’ll ‘be’ in your marriage.” And years later when I read the expression, “how you do anything is how you do everything,” it seemed the experts agreed with me!

Working with countless brides through the years, I encouraged a woman to use her time in the bridal spotlight to look inside, find and be guided by her inner voice; to love her body just the way it is; to ask for what she needed and don’t be afraid to make “unreasonable” requests in support of her well-being; and, if possible, find someone who is a wise listener she can talk to about anything. (Many bridal shopkeepers become that “good listener” and sympathetic ear for a bride’s concerns and life stories.) The inner-process of a bridal rite-of-passage—which can be a very intuitively expansive feeling—is the perfect time to deepen relationships with family and friends while hearts are already open. It’s the perfect time to complete any withheld communications, to say the “hard stuff” with love, to heal old hurts and wounds, and especially to practice forgiveness.

After their wedding and once they’d become part of a married couple, many women reported back to me about what they had noticed. By staying focused on their relationship during the wedding planning hustle and bustle, it was easier to notice what was in the way of making a deeper connection in their marriage. Long after the wedding day is over, when the day-to-day routine replaces the spotlight, looking inside makes a difference.

Even though Diana didn’t seem to have a reflective practice at this stressful yet expectant time of her young life, I believe that something was guiding her, moving her into a divinely destined future where she would be calling attention to the importance of where women placed their attention. Looking back at that time, her life brings up queries not only for brides, but for all women. When women attend to things important to their hearts, something changes immediately. When Diana put attention on her jealousy and upsets, she made herself sick. When she put attention on where her heart led, she felt more at peace, on purpose, and she lit up the world. ~

[Upcoming post....another book excerpt from The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride called "Who's Inside the Dress"....]

[Photographs: top by Julie Mikos; middle from Martha Stewart]

January 6, 2013

{The Wedding Spotlight} Part One

[The following is part one of a two-part excerpt from my book-in-progress, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride...from a section called "Loving the Skin We're In"enjoy!]

Years after her wedding, Princess Diana looked back on her time as a bride in the blinding spotlight—when she was just barely twenty years old—as being confused, dazed, frightened, extremely tired, unwell, and without a foundation to help handle the trying situations and self-doubt. Nor, it seems, did she have anyone to talk to about it all. Whether it was concerns about marriage and fidelity or not receiving enough attention from her groom; whether it was the focus on her appearance or confusion over what outfits were appropriate in her new role; whether it was being dazzled by the glittering pageantry of being a princess bride or all the attention the media put on her clothes and image; whatever combination of circumstances, there were telling signs of her distress as chronic bulimia set in.

“Diana, like many nervous brides,” explained her wedding gown designers Elizabeth and David Emanuel in A Dress for Diana, “must have lost about a stone and a half in weight [over twenty pounds] during the run-up to the wedding, so we made lots of toiles [mock ups of the dress in muslin], each a bodice size smaller.” Or as biographer Andrew Morton described it: “Weight simply dropped off, her waist shrinking from 29 inches when the engagement was announced down to 23 ½ inches on her wedding day.”

Diana’s control issues and manipulative nature carried over to her body. We learned years later about the severity of Diana’s health concerns with bulimia—caused by the kind of problems that start early and go deep. Obviously most brides don’t have to deal with such serious extremes. (Although, fueled by an obsession about appearance, we hear of brides on severe pre-wedding diets that have little regard for overall health and well-being.) Of course “loving your body” is not only a dilemma of stressed-out brides but such issues tend to get magnified around weddings. Through observing brides in my former shop, I found when they focused obsessively on appearance or the fluff and froth of their wedding that it could be a cover-up for deeper issues needing to be addressed. Issues like pretending that this step (into marriage or into marriage with this person) was right for them.

As Princess Diana later reported about her feelings on her wedding day, she may indeed have had doubts whether or not she was doing the right thing; she may have felt insecure, even jealous; she may have been searching for her future husband’s close friend Camilla Parker Bowles in the pews as she walked down the aisle; she may have been feeling ill from a lack of sleep, from her crying bouts, and from her secret bulimia attacks. And she may have hidden all of this from the cameras and the world—or not. Do we ever really hide what our heart calls forth? ~

[This is part one of a two-part excerpt from my book-in-progress, The End of the Fairy-Tale Bride...from a section called "Loving the Skin We're In." Part Two posted soon!]