Sunday, November 30, 2008


Here’s something to add to your Christmas list. For any bride who is a fan of Princess Di or want’s a closer look at the making of her dress, A Dress for Diana is a real gift. Written by her designers, David and Elizabeth Emanuel, we can tour through that spring and summer of 1981 when the world waited for shy Di to emerge from a gilded carriage to become a real live princess.

The day Diana did emerge from that carriage swathed in tulle and taffeta, her storybook gown opened up so many new possibilities. Suddenly bridal designers and manufacturers could innovate and even break a few rules. Overnight Diana with the help of the Emanuels eclipsed the granny gown and cookie cutter bridal uniforms of the time.
David Emanuel’s first book, Style for All Seasons came out in 1983 after the wedding when the husband-wife design duo from Great Britain were the hottest thing to hit the fashion scene. Style for All Seasons showcased the work of these magnificent design talents that the world wanted to see more of. Pre Steam Punk, the Emanuels' gowns were a little bit Belle Epoch, a little bit Boho and certainly a welcome change after so many years of 1970's funk.
Courtesy of CBS NEWS

Courtesy of CBS NEWS

One look at the Emanuel's most recent release A Dress for Diana and with the click of a mouse this book was on its way from Amazon . . . I was not disappointed once I read it front to cover in one sitting. It isn't one of those tell all books. I'm a bridal designer so I wasn't all that much interested in reading about Di's lovers or the Emanuel's eventual split. No, this is a book about the design process and that special designer-client relationship. What I loved most was its colorful and visual timeline from concept to creation of Diana’s gown. It was like stepping into a time tunnel and being let in on one of the best kept secrets of the century with David and Elizabeth guiding me/us through their Brook Street atelier. There are many sketches and variations on the dress Diana finally chose; photos of the dress as a work in progress, even the flower girls weeks before the wedding. The fabric was custom woven and the designers were firm about wanting a one-of-a-kind weave that wouldn't be duplicated. The most inspiring thing about the book is the way the designers not only created a dress but a whole look for the wedding party to coordinate with the scale of this grand celebration. I really recommend this book . . . a lovely gift for sure.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Wrapping up glamour week I’ve saved the best for last. Feast if you will on pieces of this delicious eye candy from a few modern designers. Using the inspiration of Hollywood and bits of costume glamour, satins, crepes and charmeuse are just a few fabrics used to support those special touches like dramatic sweeps of train, floral necklines and metallic trims.

Friday, November 28, 2008


When Hollywood designers are mentioned two stand head and shoulders above all others: Adrian and Edith Head. Head of course had flair and that remarkable staying power. In a highly competitive arena, she outlasted just about every designer for two generations in Hollywood(or was it 3?). Then there was Adrian. He just had magnificent talent. Born Adrian Adolph Greenberg, he was head of costume at MGM from 1928-1942 in a time that would mark his fourteen-year reign one of the most innovative in Hollywood. His inventive, often shocking designs are still state-of-the art today and evoke glamour always. He dressed Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford and Norma Shearer and was instrumental in helping make them beautiful for the camera, so they would eventually go on to become icons. He borrowed from everywhere and everything using his free reign as a costumer to flow over into fashion. Seventh Avenue had particular interest in Joan Crawford’s screen wardrobe and the MGM publicity machine made sure pieces from her 'movie wardrobe' were in stores in time for the release of her pictures. Adrian’s famous Letty Lynton dress you see here in white organdy is an example; Macy’s in New York sold half a million copies of it (not bad for 1933 when most of the world was feeling hard hit by economic depression).

Joan Crawford in Letty Lynton 1932

Joan Crawford in Letty Lynton

Joan Crawford in Letty Lynton

Adrian also had a unique flair for hats and exotic headpieces. Above is a jeweled turban that would go on to become a late thirties-forties trend in fashion. The net bow below would make a dynamite bridal headpiece in any era.
Joan Crawford in When Ladies Meet 1941

Though the pieces directly above and below would still be considered radical even these days, they are great examples of Adrian's inventiveness as a designer. Check out the hooded crepe veil below incorporating veil and dress all in one.

Joan Crawford in When Ladies Meet 1941

Adrian and the public saw Crawford as a fashion plate despite her rather wonky body for showing off clothes. If you look at her in swimsuit photos, her legs are stumpy and short and she has ultra-broad shoulders and a long, thick waist. A real designer's challenge, Adrian helped Crawford become the most fashionable woman in Hollywood, surprisingly not by covering all her flaws but accenting them. The Letty Lynton dress with big, puffy shoulders is a case in point. So is the dress below from Dancing Lady. Later, Adrian went on to design the man-tailored suits with broad shoulders known today as 'The Crawford Look'.
Joan Crawford in Dancing Lady 1933

Jean Harlow was gorgeous. The first to go platinum and braless, Adrian accentuated her hair and breasts by dressing her in clingy, slinky, bias-cut satins that, in those days, resembled sexy nightgowns. Adrian also played up these body-hugging, boudoir chic silhouettes by sometimes adding feathers and fur.

Jean Harlow

Look at the magnificent bias-cut beauty above. Wouldn't it rock as a gown for an evening or beach wedding?

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Get outta here! Can you really and truly have both? Well, I've worn these Apple Shoes years now for both dancing and looking great with Dior. They are actual ballroom dance shoes designed for pros and anyone putting hours of laborious practice into ballroom dance. You, just like a dancer will be on your feet a good portion of your wedding day so you mind as well benefit from the support they offer. It never ceases to amaze me just how uncomfortable some bridal shoe lines can be (mine were hell--I should have known better). The cuties above will get you through the day without any blisters, cramps or pinching. Dance shoes are different from regular shoes; the soles are thinner so the dancer can 'feel' the floor, doing pivots and spins with ease. Some women who like the look of ballroom shoes (they pair up with anything) but wear them primarily with fashion have them resoled. I say, if they are your wedding shoes, why bother unless you want to re-wear them post wedding?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Gown by Amy-Jo Tatum

Some brides are going all out with Art Deco weddings, including the starlet gown; others are simply adding touches of that movie star look with feathered fascinators or those rare vintage shoes. Though the peak of Hollywood Glamour was the 1930s, 40s and 50s fashion reflected its own kind of chic too. The 1940s concentrated on wide shoulders, satin and high hair-dos, usually worn half up, half down. The 1950s ushered in the strapless bodice with full skirts and layers of petticoats. Reminiscent of Golden Hollywood fashion is the long white satin evening gown, ruched and ruffled arms, sleeves and hems and of course the long, slinky gown with a train. Part of the magic of glamour fashion is designers today are using it as an inspiration point to create their own take on it . . .




Gown and headpiece by Amy-Jo Tatum

Henley Photos: Hair by Kathie Rothkop
Make-Up by Rob Ward

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Will you and your groom perchance be showing off a little Hip-hop at your reception? A bit of Foxtrot maybe? Nothing spells romance more than two lovers ballroom dancing. And because this is going to be your first dance as a couple,  you’ll want to get it right. Your dance can be as timeless as something out of an Astaire and Rogers flick, or as hot and wild as the numbers in Mambo Kings. Whatever dance you do choose, remember your dress could act as the perfect means of expression in which to perform it (I’m not forgetting the groom here . . . you’re both supposed to become one unit when you dance. . . ).

Dressing the part and getting in simpatico with your chosen dance isn’t all that difficult. Just know every dance was invented and came out of the human body to express a mood, so naturally each has its own temperament. Thus dance crazes (like fashion) sometimes come and go; others take hold and evolve into ageless classics like the Tango, the Quickstep and Rumba.

FOXTROTFoxtrot was considered the American standard of the 1940s-50s when Sinatra tunes reigned big. Die hard ballroom dance addicts claim the Foxtrot is still the numero uno social dance. I’d call it a vintage classic; times have changed since man circled the moon. If you love the easy listening style of Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee and most any Rat-Packer, consider this dance yours.
Popular Foxtrot Tunes-Love and Marriage by Frank Sinatra ; Summer Wind by Frank Sinatra; Is That All There Is, by Peggy Lee.

Nicole Farhi

Drama. Passion. Jealousy. Can you really do a decent Tango without all these emotions? Maybe. Realize though, the Tango was born in Argentina amidst gauchos and evolved by streetwise South Americans who danced it in humble bars and cafes. Around 1913-14 the craze caught on in Europe once it was taken to Paris and . . . ‘polished up’. Ahem, okay. So Argentine Tango is still a bit provincial and different from the ‘polished up’ Anglicized Tango. Tango aficionados are sticklers on what constitutes Argentine from International Tango. Still, I say mix them up. Argentine Tango is worth checking out, for that great Buenos Aries root with whining base violins and sweeping accordion sounds. Regular Tango in 2/4 time, when orchestrated well, can be as brilliant as Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman; orchestrated ho-hum and you get Bobby and Cissy on Lawrence Welk Show reruns.

Watch the Tango sequence from Scent of A Woman:;

Jenny Packman

WALTZWaltzing caught on big time around 1845 when Johann Strauss started composing fast, lively and—considered for their time—daring tunes. Today we know the waltz as something refined and when done right, elegant. At its height we know it as Viennese, usually with white-tie and tails for men, for women: a full and flowing gown with sweeping skirts like the one pictured here. Viennese waltzing is kind of like riding the tilt-a-whirl at the carnival. To look really good doing it you may have to work hard on it. So if you’re not a regular on Ballroom Dance Challenge get thee and your fiancee to a place like Arthur Murray.

Luckily not all waltzes are fast. The American or standard waltz is easy to listen and dance to. Elvis Presley’s, Are You Lonesome Tonight? is an easy listening waltz. So is, Could I Have This Dance? By Anne Murray. If you like modern melodies in waltz time (country western is a great example) try some like these.
Watch the Viennese Waltz


Drum Bogie. Sing, Sing, Sing. Tutti-Frutti. You know these tunes when you hear them because they’ve become such classics. Swing is a fast, lively dance—the kind you see in wartime newsreels when men in uniform toss partners up in the air, only to catch and slide her through open legs. Originally evolved from ragtime, before it was Swing it was the Lindy or Lindy Hop (after Lindberg’s hop over the Atlantic) It finally found its name in the era of swing time jazz and Benny Goodman. If you’re up for this one it’s worth a few lessons at Arthur Murray for sure.


The more modern version of Swing. Not really all that much different. International and American Ballroom has put Jive in the Latin standard. I’d call Jive the contemporary modern dance of the 21st century.

Popular Swing Tunes-Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley and the Comets; Tutti Fruitti by Little Richard; I Get Around by The Beach Boys


Salsa is a fusion of dance that originated in the Caribbean. When you think Salsa, think of a mix of Mambo, Guaguanco, Rumba and other Latin dances that involve Cuban motion. I call Salsa the Hispanic version of Swing though you'll find some African influences in the music and dance as well. Salsa is a great partner dance despite the fact there are solo steps and sometimes Salsa is danced like line or contra dances with changes of partner. Though a great improv dance, Salsa is perfect for exhibition dancing. Some of these tunes are perfect for Salsa: Ran Kan Kanonte by Tito Puente; Vamonos Pal M by Eddie Palmieri; Tanga by Mario Bauza

Pictured in the title photo, Hip-Hop is a relatively new addition to the dance standard. It evolved from funk and break dancing in the streets circa the 1970s-1990s. Still evolving, Hip-Hop is known for its improv nature. When we think Hip-Hop, it is usually in the way of a group or solo exhibition. I think though, this dance can be developed into an energetic and sexy dance for a couple.

Some of my favorite tunes for Hip-Hop, Lean on Me by Big Daddy Kane; Do Me Right by Salt and Pepa; My Melody by Eric B. Rankim

If there's any chance you have a groom named, Mickey, Mike, Mik, Misha or any derivative of Michael try Toni Basil's early Hip-Hop Cheerleader classic, MickeyWatch the 1982 Video

Monday, November 24, 2008


Henley Photography
Shaneen Huxham
I was online this morning searching out gloves to pair up with some of my gowns for a photo shoot. Once I ran across these awesome images I just had to do something on glove chic. Especially at this time of year when weddings get a little more formal and gloves help warm up hands and arms. Whether crocheted shorties or long, opera length lending that aspect of drama—gloves are glamorous and really tie a bridal look together. Luckily there are no rules anymore about what sort of gloves you have to wear with your gown. You can go with the classic white and ivory or jazz up your look with any length, color, texture, even pattern as you can see below. Just as some brides are showing some pizazz wearing different color shoes with their gown, glove color is an option you have as well. Go ahead, be adventuresome!


Carolina Amato

La Crasia

Carolina Amato



Photos right and left: ejones photography
Gowns by Amy-Jo Tatum



Shorties are those very lady-like gloves everyone wore to church in the 1950s. Mostly paired with daytime attire, they could go from afternoon formals into the early evening. These days they actually look chic with all styles--sheaths, A-lines and ball gowns. The model above is wearing a Dior-style ballerina length party dress with shorties, ditto the ladies in the Simplicity pattern rendering.


Henley Photography
Gown by Amy-Jo Tatum